To hear Vice President Joseph R. Biden tell a class of college graduates Friday, his generation from the 1960s solved many of the world’s problems.
“The day I graduated was in the midst of an escalation of nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union,” Mr. Biden said. “More nuclear warheads were being built. There was great division in the country over the civil rights movement. The year I graduated, Dr. [Martin Luther] King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.”
Mr. Biden appeared to be mixed up about the timing of his degrees. He earned his law degree in 1968, the year of the assassinations.
He said the war in Vietnam “literally fractured our society,” and the federal budget “was out of kilter.” He didn’t mention the budget deficits that have topped $1 trillion in the Obama administration’s first term.
But the vice president said he and his fellow graduates of the 1960s were confident they could solve the world’s problems.
“We ushered in an information age that shrunk the world beyond the recognition of our parents,” he said. “We laid the foundation for … a generation of significant wealth and prosperity. We moved from nuclear escalation to nuclear reduction. We finally secured civil rights for African Americans. We raised the cause of women in society to an entirely new level. And an environmental movement that did not exist began to flourish. And we ended the war in Vietnam.”
Today’s graduates face “different dangers,” he said.
“The planet is warming and we wring our hands,” Mr. Biden said. “Even the climate-change deniers are seeing the light. Climate change is a gigantic problem for the world and your generation.”
The good news, he said, is that the problem “has generated an incredible amount of rapid growth in renewable energy.”
Mr. Biden, a possible candidate in 2016, also did his best to flatter the early primary state with praise for South Carolina’s native sons and sports teams.
“I have a lot of friends in this state,” Mr. Biden said after picking up an honorary degree.
Mr. Biden called Rep. James Clyburn, an influential South Carolina Democrat, “the heart and soul of this state.” And he praised Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham as “a very close friend.”
“In an election year, he wouldn’t want me to acknowledge that,” Mr. Biden said. “We disagree, but if he gave me a call in the middle of the night and said ‘Joe, show up at 7th and Vine in the middle of St. Louis,’ I’d get up and go, and I know he’d go for me. Even though I think he’s wrong on a lot of issues.”
The vice president also heaped accolades on the university’s achievements in football and other sports.