Biden gets personal with talks of cancer, Russia at LIU Post

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Former Vice President Joe Biden discussed possible sanctions for Russian activity, his family's fight with cancer and memories of Capitol Hill Tuesday at The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

Former Vice President Joe Biden discussed foreign policy during his LIU Post speech Tuesday night as well as his family’s battle with cancer and his memories of Capitol Hill.

During his opening remarks, Biden warned the crowd of more than 1,000 in the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts to stay engaged in the political process.

“We need to remind ourselves that we need to stand up and defend this world order for our own safety’s sake,” Biden, a former Garden City resident, said. “But here at home, we have to do it as well by standing engaged in the world and rejecting this alt-right, half-baked nationalism. They call it putting America first. I call it putting America alone in the world.”

The event, which was moderated by former Congressman Steve Israel, was presented by the Global Institute at LIU.

Biden, who worked for nearly four decades with NATO, said the United States needed to band together with its allies and not let Russian President Vladimir Putin weaken the organization or the community of Western nations.

“Without a stable Europe, we are unable to exercise our positive power around the world,” Biden said. “Without a stable Europe, we are weakened significantly.”

During his time as second in command, Biden said he spent a great deal of time alone and in small groups and said Putin’s goal is to “undermine democracy.”

“It’s purposely insidious, and it’s making some gains,” Biden said.

Biden said after a lengthy and contentions meeting with Putin, the two stepped away from the debate and into Putin’s office in the Moscow Kremlin.

“Mr. President, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul,” Biden said, to which Putin responded “We understand one another.”

“It’s important to know what we’re dealing with,” Biden said. This is a very bright, very determined and very ruthless leader.”

Biden said the administration needed to take concrete steps to sanction Russia for meddling in the 2016 elections, including working closer with the country’s NATO allies, reduce the country’s vulnerability to meddling, strengthen the resilience and partner with private media companies to disband false campaigns.

“There is far too much secretive money and far too little transparency in our process, and that gives Russia and other foreign powers an opportunity to meddle unseen,” Biden said. “We just can’t say there’s nothing to be done. There’s plenty to do, and the most basic thing of all is to expose what is happening.”

Israel described Biden as a mensch before the question and answer session between the politicians, describing Biden’s relationship with Israel’s mother, who he called once after Israel asked the vice president to sign a card for his ailing father.

Israel said when his mother answered the phone and Biden introduced himself, there was silence on her end because she assumed it was an automated call.

Unbeknownst to Israel after the initial phone call, Biden continued to call Israel’s mother to check on her, including while on a trip to Scottsdale about six months later.

Biden, who served as a Delaware senator from 1973 to 2009 before he and former President Barack Obama were elected in 2008, spoke openly about his personal relationship with cancer, including his mother’s colon cancer diagnosis, his mother- and father-in-law’s deaths from cancer and his son Beau Biden’s death three years ago after battling brain cancer.

Since his vice presidential term ended in 2017, he has worked to visit every major cancer hospital in the world including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital in Manhattan and devote his time to helping fund cancer research.

Biden said about five years ago, doctors from different specialties didn’t always share information with each other or the public, which partly held back the progress of research.

“I can find out what movies are playing in Rochester, New York, right now, but you can’t go on a cell phone and find out what experiments are taking place, what is being done in various studies or if you can get into one of these studies,” Biden said. “It’s bizarre.”

Though his speech was fraught with warnings and strategies, Biden ended the night with an uplifting note for the country and its future and a call to action for attendees.

“I don’t want you to walk out of here tonight thinking there’s no hope. We’ve faced much, much much, more difficult dilemmas,” Biden said. “Yes, there are threats, and we need to take them seriously. The choices this administration is making in isolating America from the world stage, in my view, is undermining our ability to lead at a critical junction. I think we need to be vigilant and speak out against dangerous policies that weaken the support for world order at home.”

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