Biden Speaks on Importance of American Leadership in Inaugural Hagel Forum

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March 1st, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden gives remarks at the first annual Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership. (Photo: Emily White/KVNO News)

OMAHA, Neb. — “You can do anything, and I’m counting on it. Thank you.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden had some encouraging words for students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Thursday afternoon.

Biden was the guest speaker at the inaugural Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership, a new annual event hosted by the university.

Hagel welcomed his longtime colleague to Omaha and participated with Biden in a moderated discussion of student questions on leadership and foreign policy.

“Joe is a Democrat, I’m a Republican,” he said. “But that never mattered to Joe. He always understood that what matters most in public life, as in all things in life, is character. That public service is a privilege to be earned and it’s its own best reward.”

Speculation on a potential Biden campaign in 2020 continues to grow. Reports earlier in the week said he is “very close” to a final decision on that matter.

In his opening remarks before the discussion with Hagel, he spoke much on the importance of United States leadership.

“Imagine for a moment the alternative,” said Biden. “What would come from all this change without U.S. leadership? What does the absence of American leadership cost us in the world today? The United States fails to lead, who will take our place—and where does that leave us?

“We need leadership that sees what’s coming over the horizon and takes steps to expand and strengthen our capacity to meet those dangers.”

He contrasted this with the policies and behavior of the Trump administration.

“All that capacity’s been thrown into jeopardy by this administration’s “America First” policy. Where we coddle dictators,” he explained, then continued. “The love affair, love letters, with Kim Jong-Un. Standing before the world and taking the word of Vladimir Putin over the entire intelligence community. Dealing with a thug in the Philippines. I could go on. Our national reputation is being tarnished.”

Within the moderated discussion, Biden and Hagel addressed questions on America’s global role in general and within some specific conflicts over the past several decades.

Hagel said he launched this series with UNO to bring attention to the conversation around global leadership, for everyone’s benefit—but especially for young people.

“I’ve been concerned over the past few years that the United States is not fully understanding how that post World War II world order was built,” said the former Senator and Secretary of Defense. “What it took—not just to build it, but to maintain it and lead in that kind of a world.

“This is the whole point of this lecture series—global leadership. United States global leadership. No other country in the world could sit on a stage and talk about what they did. This country can. But there’s a question—are we going to continue to play that role in the world?”

Biden stressed America cannot afford to walk away from its allies and its responsibilities on the world stage.

“We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator—We’ve never lived up to it, but we’ve never walked away from it,” he said. “We have never just walked away from it. And the world is watching us walk away from it. And they’re confused as hell.”

Despite the serious conversation, the atmosphere at Strauss Auditorium was not without levity and laughter, nor did it lack optimism. As Biden said near the end of his opening remarks:

“As bleak a picture as I’ve drawn. . .when I got to the Senate as a 29-year-old kid, I was labeled a young idealist, an optimist. I can say without fear of hesitation or contradiction that I’m more optimistic about the United States’ possibilities today than I’ve ever been in my whole life.”

Chuck Hagel (center) speaks at the first annual Chuck Hagel Forum in Global Leadership. (Photo credit: Emily White/KVNO News)

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