Vice President Joe Biden visited his alma mater, the University of Delaware, on Friday to announce that he will donate the records of his 36-year Senate career to the school's library.
Biden, a 1965 graduate, signed a ceremonial agreement with university president Patrick Harker and library director Susan Brynteson offering the papers to the school.
"This university has been part of my life, and so it's only fitting that the work of my life be back here at the university," said the 68-year-old Biden, who also delivered the inaugural speech in a lecture series honoring a political science professor who died last year.
Biden thanked the professors who taught him as an undergraduate, including one who Biden said encouraged him to shape up and take his coursework seriously, prompting Biden to take a heavy course load in his final semesters to bring up his grades.
He recalled an emphasis on public service during his college years.
"Each of you instilled in me that being engaged in public life was honorable, a noble undertaking, and that we had something to contribute to the public debate," said Biden, who received his law degree from Syracuse Law School.
Harker said Biden's Senate papers will, among other things, help shed light on American diplomacy during his tenure in Congress and on Biden's role in helping shape American foreign policy. Biden, who was elected to the Senate in 1972 at age 29, chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during most of George W. Bush's presidency.
Brynteson said the records will be added to a collection of political papers that includes the legislative records of U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, former U.S. Rep. Michael Castle and former U.S. Sen. Ted Kaufman, a former Biden chief of staff who temporarily filled Biden's old Senate seat after his election as vice president in 2008.
Following a ceremony marking his university gift, Biden delivered the first in a planned annual lecture series honoring the late professor James R. Soles, who taught American government and public law there for more than 30 years. A Democrat who inspired many students to choose public service careers, Soles retired in 2002 and died last year at age 75.
In recognition of Saturday's observance of Constitution Day, commemorating the 224th anniversary of the 1787 signing of the document in Philadelphia, Biden spoke about the Constitution's importance as "a civil Bible" that binds the states together and provides the guidelines for political discourse, even in times, like now, of sharp rhetoric and "political paralysis."
Biden said that during his entire time in public life, he has never questioned the motives of anyone, while reserving the right to "vehemently" question their judgment.
"Politics is not a dirty word," he said. "At the end of the day, politics is the only way a community can govern itself and realize its goals without the sword."