SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – In front of a captive audience at the University of Utah, Vice President Joe Biden reflected on life, loss, family and faith.
Biden spoke personally about his son Beau’s battle with a brain tumor that claimed his life in 2015. His talk at the U comes about a year after he published his memoir “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose.”
“Beau said ‘Promise me, dad, you’re gonna be ok.’ That’s a sacred thing in our family. Beau didn’t want me to walk away from what animated me my whole life,” said Biden, who was in the midst of mounting a 2016 presidential campaign when before his son’s death.
“Beau always wanted me to run for president,” Biden told the audience, though he did not give any concrete indication that he will run for president in 2020.
In the Q & A style forum with U of U professor Mark Matheson, Biden spoke about winning the “gene lottery” because of his parents. His father, a student of the Holocaust, always taught him that “silence is complicity” when faced with evil. Biden said he worked to instill that value in his five children, traveling with each of them on their 15th birthdays to the concentration camp in Dachau.
Biden also reflected on the days leading up to his 2008 campaign with then-Senator Barack Obama.
He said he was reluctant, but his family urged him to run with Obama.
“It turned out to be the best decision my family ever made for me,” Biden joked. “In eight years, not one little skinny hint of scandal – that was Barack.”
“And by the way, all those memes are true,” he said as the audience erupted with laughter. Biden was frequently featured in internet memes toward the end of the Obama administration that would poke fun at his gaffes.
Biden urged students to pursue their passions, not just vocations that would pay the most money. He also waived his honorarium speaking fee, asking that the University of Utah keep the fee to help students. The University of Utah would not comment on how much Biden was offered to speak.
Biden also heaped praise on the Huntsman Cancer Institute for its work in “serving the underserved in the Intermountain West.”
Biden spoke to students, faculty and attendees of finding one’s purpose, even in the face of grief. He also said one of the greatest honors of his life was being in the same room as eleven of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said it was “astounding” to have his genealogy work done, which reached back to 1127 A.D.
“I’m a great admirer of the LDS faith,” Biden said.
The address was hosted by the University of Utah MUSE Project (My University Signature Experience) and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Biden visited HCI in 2016 after announcing the Obama administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, an effort to speed up cancer cure-finding efforts in the United States.
In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
1,000 students who attended the event on campus Thursday received a copy of Biden’s memoir.