Before Harvard grads get to hear Mark Zuckerberg share his wisdom at the university’s commencement, they heard from former vice president Joe Biden at the school’s annual Class Day celebration.
Biden, affectionately nicknamed “Uncle Joe” and the subject of many a meme, kicked off his speech by declaring “It's time to break the internet!” before he donned his iconic aviator sunglasses and took a selfie with Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana.
After a few more jokes, including quipping to the students that they can wait to get their scorpion bowl fix, Biden got serious about the role young people need to play in shaping the country.
Biden referenced two Harvard reports, one from the Institute of Politics that noted fewer students plan to participate in public service and another from the Harvard Crimson in which 37 percent of the Class of 2017 said they changed their minds about working in federal government after the 2016 presidential election.
“Forgive me, but I think that’s the wrong reaction. It’s your obligation to get engaged,” Biden said, according to a summary by the university. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that disengaging from the system that you think is broken will hold you harmless from the system’s failures.”
Biden himself graduated college in 1968, which also marked the first year of the Class Day tradition, according to the university. In his speech, he touched on the tensions of that time.
“I never doubted for one instant that we could change history,” he said. Biden went on to focus on ending the war in Vietnam as a United States Senator.
“One thing I’m absolutely certain — absolutely certain — of is this graduating class, this generation, is fully and completely capable of changing the trajectory of this country today,” Biden said. “You’re better equipped to tackle the challenges that lie ahead than my generation was. You’re the best educated, most talented, most engaged generation this country has ever, ever produced. That is not hyperbole. That is a fact.”