The university’s most distinguished alumnus is coming back on campus for good.
Former Vice President Joe Biden detailed Monday his vision for The Biden Institute, an addition to the School of Public Policy which will focus on domestic policy. He said he hopes to create an “intellectual center” for scholars, policy leaders, activists and national leaders to shape and influence the nation’s toughest problems.
“This really matters to me,” Biden said.
The university’s 55-year-old School of Public Policy was founded right when John F. Kennedy became president, freedom and civil rights were being fought by activists and the United States was fighting in the Vietnam War.
“We again find ourselves in a pivotal time in our country and indeed across the world,” Maria Aristigueta, director of the School of Public Policy, said. “I think we can all agree that the need for well informed, thoughtfully crafted policy and well prepared public leadership is just as critical today as it was all those years ago.”
The Institute will be both a research and policy center located at 44 Kent Way on the university’s main campus.
Biden said he intends for the center to write and produce policy that will advance the issues that have shaped his career: courts and the constitution, civil liberties, civil rights, the criminal justice system, violence against women, affordable education and environmental sustainability.
One of the goals of the center is to analyze the country’s current political system and ask questions like, how to reestablish bipartisanship in this country.
“We can’t govern the country without consensus,” Biden said.
Biden said the institute is also thinking about implementing a series for next semester titled, “All Politics is Personal.” He wants to interview major figures about where they came from and why they believe what they believe.
“You have to spend time understanding what their limits are, what their motives are,” Biden said.
The Biden Institute will be non-partisan. The hope and expectation is that it will attract political leaders — present and past — from both parties, leading media voices and commentators, recognized experts and cultural icons who take today’s issues seriously, like Lady Gaga or George Clooney.
Biden said he wants to use this campus as a forum to discuss and debate issues and garner national attention.
President Dennis Assanis said The Biden Institute is part of the university’s goal to make socially and globally conscientious citizens by addressing the world’s toughest problems and most taxing challenges.
“Together we create new knowledge and understanding about the world and our society,” Assanis said. “We must generate and share — I emphasize share — data.”
Biden also mentioned that he intends for students to participate as fellows within the Biden Institute and announced that he’ll be holding a rally in hopes to meet as many students as possible.
“I’d rather meet students than anybody,” he said. “I’m looking forward to — and I mean this sincerely — just hanging around on campus, answering questions, showing up in classes just to show up.”
He said he has no interest in making money, just an interest in changing the country for the better.
“I want to be for the students here on campus what the faculty was for me when I was here,” Biden said. “We can all go back, I suspect, and name one, two, three — if we’re lucky — professors, who actually impacted lives, impacted on our view of the world. I hope I can play a little bit of a part of what my alma mater played for me.”