Biden, who graduated from the university in the 1960s, said that the students were graduating at a “defining time.”
“There’s one message I hope you take from me today: This is no time to be on the sidelines. It’s not hyperbole. I mean it from the bottom of my heart,” Biden said to a sea of graduates clad in blue robes.
“We need all of you to get engaged in public life and the life of this nation.”
Biden addressed the unique challenges he said the 2022 graduating class faced, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing distrust of institutions in the U.S.
“In the last five years since many of you were in high school, America’s faced some of its most difficult tests. A global pandemic ended a million lives in America alone,” Biden said. “And the crisis of faith in institutions, however flawed they may be, serve as the infrastructure for the American experiment.”
“What you’ve been through the past four years … you could not have imagined when you graduated from high school. Campus shutdowns, classes on Zoom, the world turned upside down, but you got through it,” he added.
Biden then reminisced on his time after college when he joined politics to fight for civil rights and attempted to connect the period in the 1960s to the struggles America faces today.
Biden then jabbed at “prominent leaders” who breathe “oxygen under the rock” where hateful ideas are hiding, saying it eventually “comes roaring back out.” He then listed a series of events like those in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Jan. 6 Capitol riot; and the recent shootings this month that left dozens of people, including children, dead.
“Let’s be clear, evil came to that elementary school classroom in Texas and that grocery store in New York.”
Biden mentioned his upcoming trip to Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday, to meet with the parents and families affected by the shooting, saying “as I speak, those parents are literally preparing to bury their children.”
“We cannot outlaw tragedy, I know, but we can make America safer.”
Earlier this month, a gunman shot and killed 10 people in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket. The supermarket was located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and the suspect is believed to espouse racist conspiracy theories.
On Tuesday, an 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, with military-grade weapons and killed 19 children and two teachers.
In spite of the tragedy, Biden told the graduating class they will be defining America’s future and can make a brighter trajectory for the nation.
“I call all Americans this hour to join hands and make your voices heard and work together to make this nation what it can and should be,” Biden said.
“Your generation makes me more optimistic. I’ve said it many times … your generation is the most generous, the most tolerant, the least prejudiced, the best-educated generation this nation has ever known and that’s a simple fact.”