The Biden Institute will be part of the School of Public Policy and Administration, directed by Maria Aristigueta, who is the Charles P. Messick Professor of Public Administration and a Senior Policy Fellow in the Institute for Public Administration. As part of the SPPA in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Biden Institute will work closely with faculty to implement research in the social sciences and other disciplines.
She said the SPPA was created more than 55 years ago to address complex policy issues.
Biden’s “distinguished record of public service will go a long way in furthering the impact of all of our work, and the Biden Institute will strengthen the school’s efforts in many policy areas including economic reform, environmental sustainability, civil and women’s rights, and criminal justice,” Aristigueta said.
An engaged citizenry
Biden, who graduated in 1965, credited UD with launching his career in politics.
“All my professors talked about how being a politician was the noblest undertaking you could pursue,” Biden said.
Too few people believe that today, especially in the current political climate, Biden said. But he reminded the audience he entered politics during a time of tremendous political and social upheaval, citing the Vietnam War, civil rights protests, Watergate and more.
“You want to remember when things were depressed, go back to then,” Biden said. “Yet I had professors here who said, ‘Go change it.’ And they meant it. And we did.”
He said UD professor Paul Dolan encouraged him to run for the U.S. Senate in 1972, despite his youth and the difficulties of challenging a long-term, popular incumbent. “The mere fact he said it gave me the courage to do it,” Biden said.
UD professor David Ingersoll told Biden and his fellow students that they “had an obligation as citizens to be engaged in the national debate.”
“They honest to God convinced me that I could change the national agenda … that I could maybe even make an impact on the international stage,” Biden said. “So I owe this place. I owe this state, and I owe this University.”
Biden recognized Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, an SPPA alumna, in the audience, saying he enjoyed working with her father, Ted Blunt, who was a longtime Wilmington political leader. Biden said he wants students to see that politics can still be a noble profession.
“Hopefully, my career can convince some of the brilliant young students here — so much talent — that you can be engaged honorably without fear of tarnishing your character,” Biden said. “That’s what we need now in both parties.
“They need not share my political view on any of the issues,” Biden said. “But I hope I can convince them to share my view that they have an obligation and they have an opportunity and they have the capacity.”
As a senator, Biden also taught an advanced course on constitutional law at Widener School of Law. He said he hopes to collaborate with UD’s talented faculty.
“If we get it right, it will benefit every single department at the university,” Biden said.
Biden said he is also eager to engage informally with students on campus, chatting with them in the student centers and in classes.
“The irony is that I’m the oldest guy around, but they actually like me and I like them,” Biden said.