Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Shares Lessons on Leadership at SJU

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Joseph R. Biden Jr., 47th Vice President of the United States, urged a generation of college students to become engaged in changing the world today in an address at Saint Joseph’s University.

“There’s so much we can do, and we desperately need you,” Biden told a crowd of nearly 3,000 students, faculty, staff and community members. “Young people have to lead.”

In the speech, delivered as part of the Haub School of Business' Evelyn S. and Anthony M. '60 Carfagno Endowed Lecture series, Biden shared lessons that he has learned in his decades of public service. The series is designed to promote civic engagement and thought leadership by providing informative, engaging discussion, directed by experts in the field.

“Leadership is about being personal,” he said. “It’s about being able to put yourself in the other person’s position, and being able to share disappointment as well as credit. It’s about sharing responsibility when things don’t go well.”

Biden, who received an honorary degree from Saint Joseph’s in 1981, encouraged those present to work with people from across the ideological spectrum.

“Surround yourself with people who are brighter than you and have assets that you do not,” he said. “Reach out to people you disagree with. Listen to them. Talk to them. Learn from each other.”

The vice president also advised attendees to practice integrity in every aspect of their lives.

“Character is not built on one great show of character but a thousand small things,” he said. “The person who mistreats a server will mistreat you. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, whether they are the shoe shine person or the president of the organization.”

Biden praised the examples of former South African president Nelson Mandela and Sen. John McCain for their leadership in the face of overwhelming adversity.

“Leadership means staying true to your principles no matter the cost,” he said. “It means staying true to your values no matter what. It means being able to forgive serious transgressions against you and being able to work with the transgressor for the greater good.”

Speaking about his faith, Biden expressed his admiration for the Jesuits and Pope Francis.

“I love [Pope Francis], because he speaks up against injustice,” he said. “Every night when I go to bed, I pray that he lives to be 100 years old.”

Before the speech, Joseph A. DiAngelo Jr., Ed.D. ’70, dean of the Haub School of Business, announced the establishment of the Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III Memorial Scholarship in honor of Biden’s son, who passed away in 2015. The award will be given to deserving veterans and students from Biden’s home state of Delaware.

“The scholarship supports students who have served others through civic engagement, shown leadership in public service and demonstrated a passion for helping those in need,” DiAngelo said. “As Delaware's attorney general and a major in the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware National Guard serving in Iraq, Beau embodied these values. While he is no longer with us, his memory and his legacy will live on in the students who benefit from this scholarship.”

Biden spoke about his book Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, which was based on a conversation he had with Beau while the latter was battling cancer.

“He asked me to promise to be okay no matter what,” Biden recalled. “He said ‘Give me your word as a Biden that you'll be okay.’ He wanted me to continue to be engaged.”

As he completed his remarks, Biden appealed to those present that they needed to do the same.

“This is America,” he said. “Make it work. Go spread the faith.”

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