By Tiffany Miller
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the Tilles Center on Tuesday, March 27 as part of the LIU Global Institute speaker series. Biden tackled foreign policy and national security issues as well as new initiatives to fight cancer. There was an audience of hundreds of students, community members and local politicians, including Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, and U.S. Representative Thomas Suozzi.
Biden was invited to LIU by former Congressman Steve Israel, the Chairman of the LIU Global Institute, who knows Biden very well. They worked together in Congress when Biden was a senator and also during the Obama Administration when Biden was the vice president and Israel was a congressman. Biden and Israel were drawn together because they both grew up with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, and they both have a strong interest to advocate for the middle class, allowing them to form an “ideological king- ship,” Israel said.
Morgan Kashinsky, a junior criminal justice major, had the opportunity to meet Biden at the lecture, and became emotional. “As a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence, it was very surreal, validating and humbling to meet former Vice President Biden. He has always and continues to use his position to uplift women, and I was grateful to be able to thank him for his service,” she said.
Madeline Nunley, a senior digital art and design major and member of the honors college, also attended the lecture. “Going to see Joe Biden at the Tilles Center was definitely an experience I will never forget; he gave off such an honest and real sense of himself that it was really beautiful,” Nunley said. “You could really feel how genuine the man was and how he spoke from a place of knowledge. He was speaking with conviction which was really refreshing to hear,” she said.
Vice President Biden began his speech by referring to advancements in technology. “Fewer people over the last 15 years have been killed and/or lost in conflict than anytime in human history [because of technology],” Biden said. He said economic growth, which makes America safer and stronger, has to be modernized to deal with the pressures of the twenty first century. When Biden reminded the audience to stand up and defend the world order for our own safety, stay engaged and “reject this alt-right, half baked nationalism,” he received a standing ovation. “They call it putting America first; I call it putting America alone in the world,” Biden said.
Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing everything in his power to deconstruct that order, weaken NATO, undermine western democracies, and break apart the trans-atlantic partnership between Europe and the United States. Biden warned that without a stable Europe, we are unable to exercise our positive power around the world, and are significantly weakened.
America has made important steps, he said, describing the treasury department sanctions against Russia a few weeks ago, and President Donald Trump’s act ordering the immediate expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats who were identified as intelligence agents, and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. These actions were taken due to Russia’s alleged use of a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom.
“We need actions that will alter the Kremlin’s calculus,” he said. In the fifth year of the Obama Administration, Biden’s security team held a five hour meeting with Putin’s security team. Putin then invited Biden to his office. “Jokingly, I stood there and said ‘my lord, it’s amazing what capitalism will do,’” he said. “I stood there, looked him in his eye and said ‘Mr. President, I’m looking in your eyes, I don’t think you have a soul. Putin looked me back in the eye and said we understand one another,’” Biden said.
The audience was not entirely filled with supporters of Biden. During the speech, a heckler began to yell loudly from the front of the auditorium, but he was quickly escorted out of the Tilles Center by security officers.
Biden discussed continued efforts to protect our cyber security. “We need to work harder to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience against Russian meddling,” he said. He suggested improving cyber maintenance and security by protecting computer networks and demanding transparency.
Another point Biden addressed in his speech is how cancer has personally affected Biden’s family. He talked openly about the death of his mother due to colon cancer, the death of his father-in-law and mother-in-law from cancer, and the death of his son Beau in 2015.
Biden has developed a strong initiative on cancer research. His goals are to create a venture to continue progress in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and care. Biden believes there is a lack of access to information concerning cancer research. “I can find out what movies are playing in Rochester, New York right now, but I can’t go on a cell phone and find out what experiments are taking place, what is being done in various studies or if you can get into one of these studies,” he said. He talked about IBM Watson, a cognitive computing system designed to support oncology physicians as they consider treatment options with their patients.
Biden closed his talk with his view of Congress. “We don’t know each other. We need to start talking to each other because most of these members are decent people, but they get blinded by all of the attacks on motive,” he said. “You can not run this country institutionally; you must gain the public’s trust.”