Former Vice President Biden Speaks on Finding Purpose

 

On Dec. 13, the U hosted former vice president Joe Biden. Energy was high in Kingsbury Hall, many arriving early to take seats in the packed theater and take pictures. Even a class of fourth graders from Mountain View Elementary could be spotted making the iconic U with their hands for pictures.

The event began with a short video highlighting pictures and video from Joe Biden’s extensive career. They ranged from clips of speeches from his time in the senate to relaxed pictures with President Obama and his family.

Mark Matheson, director of the MUSE project, came to the podium first. He thanked Biden for agreeing to come and also all of the hard work put into the event by the university and MUSE.

Ruth Watkins, president of the U, came out next to announce Biden would speak on this year’s theme for MUSE: hope, hardship and purpose.

Dr. Mary Beckerle of the John Huntsman Cancer Research Center, announced Joe Biden to the stage. She described him as the “power of purpose with passion, that is Joe Biden.”

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaks at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah Campus on Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by: Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle).

The audience welcomed Biden with claps and cheers echoing through the auditorium as well as everyone standing. Before taking his designated seat in the center of the stage, he went to Beckerle to give her an embrace and admitting “I already broke the rules, I’m sorry,” causing the audience to laugh before he took his seat by Matheson, who moderated.

The entire time Joe Biden spoke was filled with jokes and the audience’s laughter. Including his “I hate getting out of the airport without my skis,” when talking about Utah. The former vice president began by speaking on how his mother and father instilled his core values from a young age, including proper dinner place manners and according to him “giving my word as a Biden” which he continues to say to this day.

Biden also recalled his time as a senator when Barack Obama asked him to be his running mate but originally said no. He claimed “vice presidents are just stand in equipment” and believed he could help out more through his work in the senate.

It was his family who eventually changed his mind. His wife and children immediately thought he should but it was his mother’s influence that made him realize he needed to say yes to this opportunity. He recalls it as “the best decision my family ever made for me.”

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaks at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah Campus on Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by: Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle).

Biden also confirms that “all the memes are true” in reference to his friendship with Barack Obama but he also clarified that it was in fact Obama who made the first friendship bracelet.

The bulk of the former vice president’s time answering Matheson’s questions was dedicated to his time as a college student. His advice for undergraduates was to find what you love and gives you purpose and make that your career. He reminded the audience that there are many people stuck in jobs they have lost interest and purpose in and that this will not allow for a fulfilled life.

When Matheson asked, “why is money not a priority,” Biden responded with his three pieces of happiness: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. He has met many successful people in his lifetime and he claims that the key to success and happiness is to be doing something meaningful.

Biden clarified that having money is not a bad thing, many things can be done with money. But he says “money as a goal is not satisfying.” He recalls his vetting process for vice president as easy and fast because he did not have many assets. He says he’s doing better recently, “down to one mortgage,” causing laughter from the audience. He says because of his book deal he was able to give away some of it to charity and recalls it as being very rewarding.

Joe Biden also waived the fee to offered to him to speak at the U. He claims “it should be put to better use,” suggesting the money be put into a scholarship fund because the cost of college now has gone up in cost more than anything else, even more than healthcare.

The former vice president even offered his advice on marriage: “One of you has to be more in love than the other.” He recalls a time when, during his term in office, his wife decorated the window panes of his office with “Joe loves Jill” in a heart. He claims continued romantic attraction also is needed in a healthy, long term relationship. Persistence is needed as well, as he had to ask his wife to marry him five times before she said yes.

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaks at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah Campus on Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by: Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle).

The audience and Biden turned emotional as he talked about loss. He began by talking about how after he lost his wife that he moved forward by finding purpose in life. This continued when his son, Beau, passed away. He claims his sons raised him as much as he raised them. Beau asked his father to “promise him as a Biden man” that he would be okay after he passed, knowing how much his father’s promise means.

Biden kept the extent of Beau’s sickness from the public and his staff because he was asked to, only confiding in Obama. Biden had planned to run for president in 2016 but later did not after Beau had passed.

The former vice president is now focused on what he calls “the new moon landing,” applying what drove man to the moon to finding a cure for cancer. The audience felt the emotion when he asked for them to raise their hand if they lost someone they love, like he did, to cancer. Most of the audience’s hand was raised and he used this to demonstrate further the need to find a cure. He expressed his appreciation for what the John Huntsman Cancer Research has done to aid in this goal.

Biden concluded with expressing his admiration for Utah, the LDS church leaders and John Huntsman. He recalls the best gift he ever received was from an LDS apostle who gave him a seven volume book on his genealogy. He enjoys coming to Utah, “even though you vote the other way.”

Biden’s remarks did not really touch on politics, other than to express the troubled state the country was in when he came to office and calling Putin a “thug.” His remarks remained about the MUSE topic of hope, hardship and purpose. Matheson commented on the reason he stayed away from asking Biden about politics: they “wanted it to be humanistic and about values,” it was “about action and inspiring undergraduate students.”

As Biden was given a standing ovation to exit the stage but he came back out to leave one more message “spread the faith.” His remarks encourage college students to find their purpose and passion and find a way to make a career out of it.

After the event, Matheson told the press that he came away “feeling honored to be next to vice president Biden and inspired” hoping that undergraduates felt the same way. He also touched on the fact that he was not sure what would happen to the waived speaking fee because it was a complicated issue decided by the university.

Student Felipe Noriega, a senior in English and part of the MUSE program, said that Biden’s remarks were “great because a lot of undergraduates are in a state of trying to find their purpose and especially to make decisions based on making money.” He also says that his remarks added perfectly to the MUSE’s theme this year. “MUSE is all about spreading awareness, especially concerning purpose. Having influenced many people and having a lot of experiences Joe Biden gave advice that can help undergraduates to find their purpose.”

k.collett@dailyutahchronicle.com

@kate_lyn_noel

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