4:24 p.m., Oct. 31, 2008----U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, Democratic candidate for U.S. vice president and University of Delaware alumnus, heaped praise on the University during a campaign rally that drew about 6,000 people on Friday, Oct. 31, in front of Memorial Hall on The Green.
Biden, who received his bachelor's degree, a double major in history and political science, from UD in 1965 and an honorary degree in 2004, was introduced by his wife, Jill, a 1975 graduate who also received her doctorate in education from UD in 2006.
“In 1965 I graduated from a great university,” Biden told cheering supporters who had gathered at the same location where his Commencement ceremony was held. “This place just keeps getting better and better and better and better and better and better.
“It's an honor to be back on campus, a campus that literally, not figuratively, played such a significant role in shaping my life. During my years on campus here some of the most transformative events of my generation took place."
Biden remembered squeezing into a crowded Scrounge in October of 1962. "We watched on a black and white television as John Kennedy warned us of the impending showdown with Russia over the Cuban missile crisis. One year and one month later, I was literally standing on the steps of Hullihen Hall when I heard of John Kennedy's death.
“With my friends, in the lounge of Harter Hall ... where I had my room, I remember the late night debates as the drumbeats of the impending war in Vietnam grew louder and louder.
“But I remain grateful for the professors I had here ... all of them helped me understand and make some sense of those events as the world seemed to be swirling out of control in the mid-60s. They not only believed in me, they believed that we each had something to contribute to the public debate. They convinced my generation of that.
“My message to all these students here today is you have a great deal to contribute. We need you badly ... in the public discourses and the politics in this country,” he said.
Biden noted that the campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is David Plouffe, a “proud Blue Hen” who was a student in the UD political science department from fall 1985 through fall 1988, and Republican presidential candidate John McCain's chief strategist is Steve Schmidt, who attended the University from 1988 to 1993 as a political science major.
"I am proud that this great University has instilled that kind of intensity in its graduates, in its students who are here,” Biden said.
Biden thanked UD President Harker, who rushed back from a business trip to China, for his friendship, hospitality and leadership of “this great University.”
Betsy Hicks, a graduate student in coastal engineering from Rehoboth Beach, Del., said it was exciting to have a presidential election rally held on campus.
“I thought he did a great job and hopefully he inspired a lot of people,” Hicks said of Biden.
Matthew Stan, a senior communication major from Lewisburg, Pa., who was shooting video for the Student Television Network from a riser close to the stage, said Biden's campaign officials were very helpful.
“It's been really exciting to see the accommodation the campaign made for students,” Stan said. “It's been great to hear the excitement of the crowd from this close.”
Sergio Olaya, junior a political science major from Bethesda, Md., said the rally was “probably one of the most important events that could happen on campus for the election,” an election that has drawn attention to the University of Delaware, one of the country's oldest universities, as the epicenter of presidential politics.
UD President Patrick Harker opened the rally by welcoming the crowd and introducing U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, who received his master's degree at UD in 1975. Also speaking at the rally was Jack Markell, the Democratic candidate for governor.
Article by Martin A. Mbugua
Photos by Kathy Atkinson, Christian Derr and Lane McLaughlln