NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Today's college graduates are stepping into a rapidly changing world that presents profound dangers and challenges as well as incredible opportunities, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday in a commencement speech at his alma mater, the University of Delaware.
A sense of confidence and an optimistic attitude will enable the newest class of graduates not only to confront those challenges and make the most of them, just as previous generations of Americans have done, but "to bend history a little bit," the vice president said.
"Once every couple of generations, a class enters a point in our history where they actually have a chance to change the trajectory of the country, an inflection point, where change is taking place," Biden said.
Biden's speech was his fourth commencement address at the university, from which he graduated in 1965 with a double major in history and political science. Today, just as when he graduated from the university, America is again at such a point of change, Biden asserted.
Whereas the nation in the 1960s was roiled by the nuclear arms race, the civil rights movement, political assassinations and the Vietnam War, the challenges today are different, but no less daunting, said Biden, ticking off a list that includes international terrorism, pandemic disease, climate change and global inequity.
"Today, stateless actors not only create a threat, but an opportunity. They're bringing together civilized nations in a common cause to wipe them out," he explained. "The effects of climate change are real and must be acted on. They're generating phenomenal breakthroughs and rapid growth of renewable energy."
Similarly, the fear of pandemic disease has led a generation of scientists and doctors to find new tools not just to prevent disease, but to cure illnesses once thought incurable, and medical and scientific advances continue at a breakneck pace, he said.
Meanwhile, America remains the world's economic leader and a nation that embraces "equity, fairness and justice," Biden noted.
"Consider the progress we've made just since you've been here in civil rights," he said to the applause of graduates. "The right to marry the person you love. The right of a woman to make her own health care decisions. The right of millions of people living in the shadows to earn a pathway to citizenship."
Biden urged graduates to embrace the future with a sense of confidence.
"You are citizens of the nation that is better positioned than any country in the world to lead the 21st century, economically, politically, socially," he said. ".... Neither optimism nor pessimism enables you to predict your future, but I am absolutely confident that only confidence and an optimistic attitude will enable you to take a hand in shaping your future."
Biden's speech was his fourth commencement address at the university, from which he graduated in 1965 with a double major in history and political science. In 2011, he donated his senatorial papers to the school.