May 17: White House pool report on Vice President Joe Biden


Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told 150 graduates of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, including his daughter, at the school’s commencement this evening, that by empowering other people they can make positive change in this world.

VPOTUS told the graduates that change is happening and that despite the two wars, the high unemployment rate and the constant budget cuts, they should remain optimistic.

“The thing that I love about you all… is that you believe in possibilities, the possibility that you can make things better,” he said, adding that that belief is the “fuel” that has ignited progressive social change.

But VPOTUS also asked them to act quick if that fuel starts to run out. “If the day comes when you lose that sense of possibility, if you lose that optimism please do me and yourself a favor… leave. Leave the profession.”

Pessimism is devastating, he said, to bring about effective change.

Just before 6 p.m. family and friends of graduates started filing in to Irvine Auditorium through metal detectors and bag-checking officers, not to mention at least one K-9 unit dog. However, the secret service, metal detectors and the high level of security was a first for the school’s commencement.

A few months ago the school’s dean Richard J. Gelles approached the vice president’s daughter Ashley B. Biden, 28, about having one of her parents speak at the commencement ceremony. Ashley Biden had been “under the radar” for the last three years, Gelles said, but she agreed that it would be nice to have her father speak at the commencement.

Gelles said the dual role of father speaking to his graduating daughter and a politician who has handled “many high-profile social justice issues,” such as the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, should make for a great speaker.

With his index finger rigidly pointed out, VPOTUS said change comes through “one policy, one person at a time,” and made reference to the Violence Against Women Act by saying: “one woman at a time.”

Though VPOTUS encouraged the graduating social workers to empower people, he also warned against abuse of power at every level.

“For social justice to reign there must be a mechanism— to restrain the abuse of power,” so that everyone can have the chance to live an individual and meaningful life.

VPOTUS finished his speech by saying that his mother, had she been alive, would have told the graduates that they are about to do God’s work. “So go do it, do it well,” he said. VPOTUS received a standing ovation from the packed auditorium seating about 1,250 people.

VPOTUS addressed the “fellow members of the proud parents club,” but only made a few references to his daughter during his 23-minute speech.

Ashley Biden received her master’s of social work degree and was one of a dozen graduates receiving a John Hope Franklin Combating American Racism award. VPOTUS gave her a kiss on the check when she went on stage to receive her award. She specialized in macro social work with an interest in juvenile justice, poverty and education.

The school, which has about 400 full-time and part-time students, is celebrating its centennial this year.

VPOTUS’s three children are: Beau, Hunter and Ashley.

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