Thursday afternoon, Strauss Performing Arts Center was abuzz with chatter as members of Nebraska’s Democratic Party, NU Regents, media conglomerates and an audience of lottery-selected UNO students waited the arrival of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden visited campus as a guest for the inaugural Chuck Hagel Global Leadership Forum. Hagel, the former Secretary of Defense, is also a former Maverick.
Student Government leaders surrounded the stage, adding a diplomatic campus connection to the scene.
During his opening remarks, Hagel described his non-partisan relationship with Biden as a long-lasting and important friendship in his life. He complimented Biden as a man of great and admirable character.
After a handful of opening statements and introductions from Student Body President Renata Valquier Chavez, UN President Hank Bounds, Chancellor Jeffrey Gold and Hagel, Biden took the stage.
With a round of applause from the crowd, he waved and cracked a joke.
“I saw ‘Omaha’ and I thought it said ‘Obama,’” Biden said, to a laughing audience.
During his lecture, Biden spoke to his relationship with Hagel, as well as his time as a core American leader.
He touched on his wide array of experiences in global policy and dove into a more politically driven speech about America’s current administration.
Biden said he was optimistic about the future of the country and emphasized the importance of the U.S. standard in leadership.
“When America leads boldly with confidence in ourselves, we will lead the world better,” Biden said. “The power of our example matters. It matters on how we have at home and how we are projected abroad.”
Following his talk, Biden sat down for a conversation with Hagel and Lana Obradovic, an assistant professor in UNO’s political science department.
Obradovic moderated with questions pre-submitted by UNO students. Biden and Hagel discussed their inspiration for the event, President Trump’s recent meeting with Kim Jong Un, U.S. ties with Afghanistan and more.
One student submitted a question about the importance of fighting abuses of power.
“Everyone talks about what leaders should do,” Biden said. “It starts with all of you, how you treat one another. Not a joke. How you show respect for people of different ethnicities, cultures… it matters. Leaders’ words matter.”
Throughout the duration of the forum, UNO students and community leaders combined soaked in the experience and wisdom of the leaders on stage.
“I’m a political science major, and honestly, the Obama administration is the reason I got into this field in the first place,” senior Sandy Griffin said. “I have a lot of gratitude for Joe Biden.”
Watch the full forum here.