By Janelle Hanson, managing editor, University of Utah Communications
As Vice President Joe Biden made his way onto the Kingsbury Hall stage as part of the MUSE Project’s (My U Signature Experience) theme year of “purpose,” he smiled and waved to the packed auditorium. Settling into a comfortable chair next to MUSE Director and English professor Mark Matheson, Biden recounted childhood memories and reflected on his life, family and the loss of his son.
Biden said he had initially told President Barack Obama he didn’t want to be vice president and Obama had joked that there wasn’t really anybody else he wanted. Biden went home and discussed it with his wife, Jill, his kids and his mother.
“It turned out to be the best decision my family ever made for me,” Biden said. He jokingly added, in regards to Obama: “And by the way, all those memes are true. He made the first friendship bracelet, not me.”
Biden said he had intended to run for president on the 2016 ticket until his son Beau was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
Everyone knew Beau wanted him to run for president, but when Beau asked his father to make a promise to him, media outlets took that to mean a promise to run for the presidency. However, Biden said, “the promise was to stay engaged in the things that animated my life. I’ve found my purpose and the thing that still gives me reason.”
When asked about why money hasn’t been a motivator in his life, Biden said that Obama had joked with him about his limited assets during the vice president vetting process, asserted money in and of itself is a hollow goal.
“I find that those people who are both successful and happy have found a place where they can do things that are meaningful and contribute to society,” he said.
And to that point, Biden waived his honorarium speaking fee, saying the university can put that money to better use.
He also counseled students to not “measure your success or failure relative to your material well-being” and to find something they love.
Social media was abuzz during the event. Below are some highlights:
— John Ryan (@JJRyanMD) December 13, 2018
— Dominic Skinner (@Dom_Neuro) December 13, 2018
“I have a soft spot for this state, even though you vote the other way . . . “ VP @JoeBiden gave great shout out to Amb. Jon Huntsman, Jr. w/ his work in Russia & wanting to drag race w/ VP Biden. #MUSEProject @UUtah
— Paul H. White (@PaulHWhitePhD) December 13, 2018
.@JoeBiden said he made a lot of money off his book and last year, he donated $1.2 million to charity, calling it “the greatest thrill of my life”
— Arlette Saenz (@ArletteSaenz) December 13, 2018
— Huntsman Cancer Inst (@huntsmancancer) December 13, 2018
— Andrew Reeser (@andrewreeser) December 13, 2018