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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Joe Biden visits Hawk Hill

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Former Vice President Joseph Biden on stage in Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

Former Vice President provides leadership lessons to students


As a line was wrapping around the side of Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena, four students and their faculty advisor waited anxiously in the lobby of Hagan Arena in preparation for the opportunity of a lifetime and a moment they would never forget.

Jillian Garvey ’21, Brynn McCall ’21, Louis Serlenga ’21 and Triet Nguyen ’20 were the four members of the Dean’s Leadership Program (DLP) selected to meet former Vice President Joseph Biden during his historic visit to Hawk Hill.

As a part of the Evelyn S. and Anthony M. ’60 Carfagno Lecture series, Biden delivered a speech in Hagan Arena to an audience of approximately 3,000 students, faculty, staff and community members on April 24.

Nguyen, an accounting and business intelligence double major from Camden, New Jersey, was notified Monday that he was one of the four DLP students chosen for a meet and greet with Biden before his speech.

Biden was waiting in a side room in Hagan Arena for the students, their DLP advisor Ronald Dufresne, Ph.D., associate professor of Leadership Ethics and Organization Sustainability, and Jeanne Brady, Ph.D., provost and chief academic affairs advisor, to meet with them before the official program began.

 “We were all mesmerized at how warm and welcoming he was to each one of us,” Nguyen said.

 

Biden asked Nguyen what his story was. Nguyen explained that he moved to the U.S. when he was five, and was naturalized last April.

The former vice president kissed Nguyen on the forehead and said, “Thank you for choosing this wonderful country.”

Nguyen described the feeling as one of “excitement and the realization of getting to meet the former vice president because the surrealness of it really didn’t kick in until then.”

He added that this was one of the best experiences of his life and gave him high energies for the rest of the day.

Left to right: Triet Nguyen ’20, Brynn McCall ’21 and Louis Serlenga ’21 walk into Hagan Arena after meeting Biden (Photo by Ana Faguy ’19).

Biden wrapped up conversations with the four students and selected members of the university administration and made his way into the arena. Despite a  25-minute delay from the announced start time, the patient crowd still stood and applauded enthusiastically. As he made his way up to the podium, the applause ended, a voice from the bleachers shouted ‘we love you, Joe,’ eliciting a smile of appreciation from the former vice president.

Biden’s remarks covered a wide range of topics, including the death of his son Beau Biden, his initiative to decrease the pervasiveness of sexual assault via the “It’s on Us” movement, and the importance of student activism.

 

“Leadership means answering the call of duty,” Biden said. “There’s nothing more consequential than your word. Your word is your word and it cannot be situational.”

During the event, Joseph DiAngelo, Ed.D. ’70, dean of the Haub School of Business, announced the creation of a scholarship in the name of Biden’s son Beau, who passed away from cancer in 2015. Instead of Biden being paid for the Carfagno lecture, the money was donated to the foundation of the “Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III Scholarship.”

“Beau turned out better than me, and it is a great honor to me and our entire family that we will dedicate a scholarship entirely to Beau,” Biden said.

Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA), Biden’s longtime friend and fellow Democrat, was also in attendance and sat next to DiAngelo during Biden’s remarks. Brady emphasized how important Biden’s message to the youth is.

“I think Joe Biden is always dead on, down to earth, no thrills, just tells it like it is and what he said to you [students] is get involved,” Brady said. “Every time I hear him he’s just so genuine.”

University president Mark Reed echoed Brady’s remarks on the former vice president’s candor and easy demeanor.

“He’s just a person like all of us,” Reed said. “He gave us all something to think about. What struck me is his message, we all have a job to do.”

This was particularly apparent when Biden answered a cell phone call from his wife during the lecture, explaining that he made a deal with his family to always answer the phone no matter the circumstances.

Biden answers a phone call from his wife in the middle of his speech to assure her he will call her back after the lecture (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

“It’s real simple, those are my priorities,” Biden said. He concluded his lecture with a plea to students, saying that their priorities should be to become more involved in their communities and in the democratic process.

“You have to get up, get involved, get engaged,” Biden said.

Charley Rekstis ’20 contributed to this story.

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