Joe Biden, 47th Vice President of the United States, visited the University of Nebraska at Omaha on Thursday to discuss global leadership and the role of the United States internationally.
Biden and Chuck Hagel, former Secretary of State and UNO alum, participated in a moderated discussion at the inaugural Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership with the theme of “The Role of U.S. Leadership in a Changing World.”
Throughout the event Biden critiqued the current leadership of the United States, called for a return to “basic American values” and reiterated the idea that “American leadership and engagement in the world is essential to our safety and prosperity.”
“This is the first moment in modern memory where American leadership and engagement is in doubt,” said Biden.
“They no longer trust our commitment. [...] Everyone used to trust the basic value the United states brought to the table: decency, respect, an unwavering commitment from Democrat or Republican presidents of the last 70 years to strengthen and advance the hard earned position of the free world.”
The conversation covered topics surrounding the challenges the country will face in the upcoming years, national security concerns, President Trump’s international interactions and the role the United States should aspire to have.
In his introduction of the event, Biden repeatedly asked: “What will it cost us if America is not leading?”
The majority of the discussion between Hagel and Biden was critiquing Trump’s administration or looking toward the future with hope, with Biden speaking for most of the conversation.
“I can say without fear of hesitation, or contradiction, that I’m more optimistic about the United States’ possibilities today than I’ve ever been in my whole life. We’re better positioned than any other nation in the world to shape the direction of the 21st century,” said Biden.
Biden had a note of hope directed at students, as well, saying, “You are the most educated, the best educated, the most progressive and the most open generation in the history of the United States of America.”
Questions were submitted in advance by UNO students, though students in attendance were often asked to identify themselves and received a “good question” from Biden.
The event, focused towards students, is set to become an annual event at UNO, Hagel’s alma mater.
In future years, UNO hopes this forum will “explore critical issues with global leaders in search of solutions to today’s global challenges,” along with giving students an opportunity to engage with prominent global leaders.
“I appreciate Vice President Biden coming into give this first lecture because as much as I care about Joe Biden and as close of friends as we are, I really couldn’t envision anyone who would be better to talk about this, truly, than Joe Biden,” said Hagel.
There were other significant Nebraska politicians and public figures in the audience, including former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), former Sen. Brad Ashford (R-Neb.), former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and multiple state senators.