On May 27, former Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage at Cornell University to deliver a commencement speech that touched on the current political state of the United States. While the 35-minute speech started off with light humor (“I’ve got to admit to the real reason I came today: I love ice cream,”), Biden shifted his tone when he spoke about the 2016 election.
“This past election cycle churned up some of the ugliest realities that still remain in our country,” he said. “Civilized discourse and real debate gave way to the coarsest rhetoric stoking our darkest emotions.” Biden also expressed how dismayed he was by all of it. “I thought we had passed the days when it was acceptable for political leaders […] to bestow legitimacy on hate speech.”
“The immigrant, the minority, the transgender, anyone not like me became a scapegoat,” Biden said before reciting some of the troubling statements made during the past election. “‘Just build a wall. Keep Muslims from coming into the United States. They’re the reason I can’t compete. That’s why I don’t have a job. That’s why I worry about my safety.'”
To counter that, Biden offered words of encouragement to the graduating class. “I imagine, like me, many of you seen this unfold, [and it] was incredibly disorienting and disheartening […] but I assure you, this is a temporary state of affairs. The American people will not sustain this attitude for long.”
Watch his full commencement speech ahead.