By Sarem Gizaw
Joe Biden is the 47th Vice President of the U.S. Serving since 2009 with President Barack Obama, Biden has focused on increasing the living standards of middle-class Americans, supporting college affordability, and developing American manufacturing. In the wake of the December 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, President Obama formed a Gun Violence Task Force, to be led by Biden, which will address the causes of gun violence in the U.S.
You are currently the head of the Gun Violence Task Force. Do you believe that meaningful legislation can currently be passed despite Congressional gridlock and the influence of special interests? If so, how do you plan on achieving it?
JB: I do believe it can be passed. The reason I do is that the American public has had a fundamental change of heart on the issue of gun safety after the tragedy of Sandy Hook. I believe eventually their voices will be more powerful and will have more influence than the N.R.A. We’re in the process of talking to the interest groups who represent the American people – law enforcement, clergy, responsible sportsmen, hunters and many others – to encourage them to continue this fight with us. I’m also in discussion with a number of senators to determine how we can get to yes.
Looking back on over 40 years in politics, how do you feel you have changed, politically and personally? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
JB: I have a heightened appreciation for the vastness and diversity of this country and a reinforced sense of optimism about its possibilities. The American people, given a fighting chance, have never, ever let their country down and have risen to every challenge. I continue to be persuaded that it’s never been a good bet to bet against America.
What was your major in college? How did your college experience shape your political views and aspirations?
JB: I had a double major in college – in history and political science. And it may seem somewhat ironic, but all they did was deepen my pre-existing political beliefs that I guess were the product of my family, my faith and the times I grew up in. I entered college the year President Kennedy was elected. I’ve never lost the belief that he perpetuated that politics is both necessary and noble. And that the government’s primary role is to prevent the abuse of power, whether by an individual or entity. I still believe that.
Would you advise civically minded Penn students to pursue a career in politics? Do you believe politics is still an effective way to change society?
JB: All politics is, is the constant negotiation between and among individuals to be able to promote a free and open society. I think it’s the only way to give life and stability to positive social changes that occur. I not only encourage it, but I believe you have an obligation to be engaged in the political process. It doesn’t mean you have to run for office, but it means you have to be concerned about who holds public office. Plato said it best when he said, “The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” And the more informed you are, the higher the obligation.
This interview contains minor edits for grammar and clarity.
This interview originally appeared in the Summer 2013 edition of PPR.
Image courtesy of http://www.whitehouse.gov/.