STORY BY MORGAN GSTALTER
Vice President of the United States Joe Biden addressed a crowded Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University mid-morning today regarding the White House’s economic policies.
Eight hundred thirty people were in attendance, according to Drake’s senior media strategist Aaron Jaco. The VP was introduced by several speakers including President David Maxwell, former Iowa Supreme Court chief justice and director of the Harkin Institute Marsha Ternus and Student Body President Joey Gale.
Biden apologized for the delay and thanked Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie for “(his) passport back into the city.” This was not Biden’s first visit to Drake.
“At least I don’t have to run a relay this time,” Biden said.
The event, which was sponsored by Student Senate, the department of political science and The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement, garnered an attentive and eager audience.
“No one has more certitude about why he ran for office in the first place than Tom Harkin,” Biden said of the former Iowa senator. Harkin retired in January after serving for 40 years and donated 800 boxes of documents from his tenure in Senate to Drake University.
The main topic of the vice president’s speech was the state of the economy under President Obama’s six years in office, calling the 2008 depression “the great challenge of our time.”
“The truth of the matter is that the dreams of Americans were wiped out because of the Great Recession,” Biden said. “All told, Americans lost $16 trillion in wealth in 18 months.”
He continued to say that when Obama took office in 2008, the unemployment rate was at 10 percent and had since lowered to 5.7 percent.
“Stimulus can and does refine the economy,” Biden said.
He also discussed the wealth gap, the middle class and the necessity of “confidence in the capitalist system.”
“It’s not an accident that there’s been a greater concentration of wealth in the top one percent than any time since the 1920s,” Biden said. “Salaries have skyrocketed … 36 percent of profit has gone to increased dividends for stockholders.”
Biden’s speech was met with applause when he discussed education and the severity of student debt.
“Education is a right, not a privilege,” Biden said. “Six out of 10 jobs right now require more than 12 years of education.”
He later quoted his wife, Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden as saying “Any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us.”
Last month, President Obama released news for the proposal of two free years of community college. Biden said this would come with requirements for applicable students, including the maintenance of a 2.5 GPA at minimum.
Following his address, Biden answered three student questions while walking among the front row and interacting with audience members. He said he loved speaking with students at universities because students “just get it, more than most.”
Student Body President Joey Gale emphasized the importance of the vice presidential visit. He said it was a great experience to have someone of such high caliber in Iowa, let alone at Drake, interested in discussing economic issues with college students.
“I love how he had a really clear message and he was very passionate but he made it (the speech) relatable to college students,” Gale said.
Photos courtesy of Allison Trebacz