Winston-Salem, N.C. — Vice President Joe Biden said that graduates of Wake Forest University should use the change and challenges in present-day America to shape history.
"This really is your moment. History is yours to bend. Imagine what you can do," the vice president urged the 1,800 members of 167th graduating class from the private liberal-arts university in Winston-Salem.
Biden, the first sitting vice president to speak at at Wake Forest's commencement, served as a replacement for the graduating class' first choice of speaker, journalist Tim Russert. The long-time host of NBC's "Meet the Press" died June 13, 2008, of a heart attack.
Biden urged the graduates to face challenges – such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, energy, education, health care and global warming – in "a world of anxiety and uncertainty."
"No graduating class chooses the world into which they graduate. Each graduating class faces unique challenges; each graduating class enters history that has been written for them," Biden said.
"Your class is no different. What is different is your chance to take history into your own hands and write it large," he said.
The vice president compared the situation facing the Class of 2009 to that which faced him when he graduated from law school in the late 1960s – but said this year's crop of graduates have much greater opportunities.
"Your charge is not restore but to renew," Biden said.
James Barrett, a history major, said he has plans to shape America's future. He will join the Navy after graduation and wants eventually to work to help fix Social Security's financial problems.
"I have a father who's almost Social Security age, and I feel like for our generation, there's no security net. We need to look at alternatives or revamp the whole program," Barrett said.
For other graduates their challenges for the future begin with finding a job.
"A lot of my friends don't have jobs. For me, I have an internship that will hopefully turn into a job," graduate Alex Mentel said. "I'm thankful to have that."
Biden concluded by describing a future he urged the graduates to create.
"Imagine a country where every single person has a fighting chance – a country that once again leads the world by the power of example, not the example of our power," he said. "Graduates, that's all within our power."