Vice-president Joe Biden spoke to graduating Yale University students at a pre-commencement event on Sunday, and he refused to take part in the school’s tradition of wearing silly hats to get ready for the big day. “You know,” he explained, “when President Obama asked me to be his vice-president, I said I only had two conditions: One, I wouldn’t wear any funny hats, even on Class Day, and two, I wouldn’t change my brand.”
He then put on a pair of his signature aviator sunglasses and wore them for the rest of his speech, which was a quintessential Joe Biden production in the best way.
Here are a few of the things he said:
• I realize no one ever doubts I mean what I say. The problem, occasionally, is I say all that I mean.
• You already heard from Jessie J at Spring Fling. So what in the hell could I possibly say?
• Let’s get a couple things straight right off the bat: Corvettes are better than Porsches. They’re quicker and they corner as well. And sorry, guys, a cappella is not better than rock and roll.
• On “Overheard at Yale,” on the Facebook page, one student reported another student saying: “I had a dream that I was vice-president and was with the president, and we did the disco funk dance to convince the Congress to restart the government.” I’m just glad there’s someone — just someone — who dreams of being vice-president. Just somebody. I never had that dream. For the press out there, that’s a joke.
Since his speech was during commencement, he also offered a bunch of advice from the the Joe Biden–authorized book of life.
• The most successful people that I’ve known understand that a good life, at its core, is about being personal, being engaged. It’s about being there for a friend or colleague … remembering their birthdays, congratulating them on their marriage, celebrating the birth of a child. It’s about being available to them when they are going through personal loss. It’s about loving someone more than yourself.
• I’ve been lucky, and my wish for all of you is that not only tomorrow, but 20 and 40 and 50 years from now, you’ve found that sweet spot, the thing that allows you to get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, go out and pursue what you love, and think it still matters.
And, he managed to make a big point about the meaning of life that revolved around the ridiculous hats everyone was wearing at the end of his address.
• It means you are willing to look foolish. You’re willing to run the risk of looking foolish in the service of what matters to you. Remember that, because some of the things your heart will tell you to do will make you look, among your peers, foolish, or not smart, or not sophisticated. But we’ll all be better off for people of your consequence to do it.