On Thursday, Feb. 8, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and Joseph R. Biden Jr., 47th Vice President of the United States and Penn’s Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor, hosted the official opening of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington.
The official opening marks almost a year since the University announced the Biden appointment and the formation of the new Penn Biden Center focused on diplomacy and global engagement. Located at 101 Constitution Ave., N.W., the Penn Biden Center engages foreign policy leaders and members of the Penn community on issues critical to ensuring that the world continues to benefit from principled American leadership throughout the 21st century.
The event featured a ribbon-cutting and an hour-long conversation between Biden and Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, who is also a Penn alumna and a trustee emerita of the University.
“Today we inaugurate the Penn Biden Center to support an interconnected world that is open and secure, dynamic and free,” said Gutmann, introducing the program. “Today we launch the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Around the globe there is a dire need for innovative well-informed leadership, global leadership, leadership that is outreaching.
“Around the globe the pressures are also enormous to turn inward. This is a global phenomenon But we must, and we will, reach out. An important way of doing this is through what we call educational diplomacy. Educational diplomacy is the most lasting and powerful tool for building understanding and cooperation around the world. I see that day in and day out on Penn’s campus.
“Our students and our faculty,” said Gutmann, are “hungry for the kind of understanding and the kind of educational diplomacy and the kind of political diplomacy that this Center represents.”
Democracy and diplomacy were addressed in the dialogue between Biden and Mitchell, which covered a wide range of topics, including current issues in foreign policy as well as long-term trends affecting global affairs and the future of American leadership.
“We lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” said Biden. “America is an idea, and the reason why the rest of the world rallies to the United States, why we’ve been able to lead the world so consistently, is because of our ideas and our ideals, and to the extent that we’re consistent or close to consistent with what we say we believe, the more we have support. Our allies are willing to stand with us the more certain they are about who we are, and they can count on us. I think that’s the single most consequential element of what we here at the Penn Biden Center are fighting to sustain and retain.”
At the ribbon-cutting, Biden said, “It is just a great, great honor to be associated with what I think is one of the finest universities in the world.” He continued, “This is the most satisfying thing that I could do. The purpose of this [Center] is to be a gathering place where ideas are exchanged.”
Following the program, David L. Cohen, chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees, addressing the more than 100 guests, said, “All of us at Penn are immensely proud and privileged to have Vice President Biden leading the work of the Center and to have his name associated with Penn's name.
“I want to give a special shout out to our students and faculty participating in the Penn in Washington program who are here with us today. This is an educational facility, and we should always remember what we are trying to accomplish.”
The Feb. 8 dialogue with Gutmann, Biden and Mitchell can be viewed in its entirety here.
Official photography from the event is available for media use upon request.