Vice President Joe Biden told graduates of the University of South Carolina Friday that cynics were wrong about his generation and, two generations later, they are wrong about the current generation of young adults.
“Do not listen to the cynics,” the Delaware Democrat told the graduates.
Every class that steps on the world stage faces unique challenges, Biden said. “Every class enters the history that has been written up to the point.”
But the vice president told USC’s 2014 graduating class they have the chance to write a new chapter and bend history.
Biden’s referenced his own generation’s challenges, including nuclear tension between the United States and Soviet Union, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Today’s graduates face different challenges, but also incredible possibilities and have significant tools to deal with those threats.
Biden cited technological advancements and innovations, including renewable energy, 3D printing in the medical field and speech-recognition technology on iPhones. “We’re about to enter an era of breathtaking change and progress.”
One of the recent graduates entering that changing world Friday was Payton McCrossan of Charlotte, who graduated after studying finance in the business school.
“I think (Biden’s) point was spot-on with the environment we’re about to go into,” McCrossan said.
McCrossan said he is trying to figure out where to go next, after graduation. “There’s a bit of nervousness.”
Biden has said he may run for president in 2016, having twice previously — and unsuccessfully — sought the Democratic nomination.
Most recently, in 2008, Biden bowed out of the Democratic race before the S.C. primary and was named Barack Obama’s running mate.
Biden also long has interacted with South Carolinians, vacationing at Kiawah Island and having — he told the graduates — a friendship with Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. Graham might not want to acknowledge that friendship, Biden added, noting it is an election year.
Biden, a liberal on civil rights, also delivered the eulogy for longtime U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond at Columbia’s First Baptist Church, saying Thurmond’s onetime segregationist beliefs had changed with the times.
Biden also used part of his speech to acknowledge graduating students who are veterans or serving in the military, asking them to stand to applause.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you’re part of a remarkable generation of warriors,” Biden said.
Biden said 33,000 U.S. soldiers are still in harm’s way, adding 300,000 have come home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with unseen wounds, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There is only one sacred commitment — that is to prepare those we send into harm’s way, and care for them and their families when they come home,” Biden said.
Biden also had a little humor in his address, joking about the cost of college tuition. “Your parents are celebrating today because they’re all getting their first pay raise in years.”
Other notables at USC
“Politics is one of the most abused and neglected of professions.”
— Then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts in 1957, urging USC graduates to enter politics and criticizing those who considered politics fit only for smoke-filled rooms
“We’re committed to self-determination for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and, ultimately, the Soviet Union itself. ... Democracy and freedom threaten absolutely no one.”
— President George H.W. Bush in 1990, telling graduates the U.S. would provide financial, political and moral support to help formerly communist nations transition to freedom
"A time of historic opportunity has arrived. A dictator in Iraq has been removed from power. The terrorists of that region are now seeing their fate, the short, unhappy life of the fugitive. ... We have reached a moment of tremendous promise, and the United States will seize this moment for the sake of peace."
— President George W. Bush in 2003, two months after the United States invaded Iraq