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by Nicholas Michael, 2Y 2018

On Friday, March 9, more than 600 Kellogg students and faculty gathered at the Global Hub to hear a special address by Vice President Joe Biden. As a co-president of Kellogg’s Public Policy Club, I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat and meet Biden after the event – definitely a highlight of my time at Kellogg.

The build-up to the VP’s visit began a week before, with an email to all students announcing the visit. All the next week campus was buzzing. There were sightings of Secret Service officials walking the corridors. Classes and events stopped just so students could be sure to register on time for tickets. The building’s great, central Gies Plaza was slowly transformed with cables and lights and extra seating, as the stage was set. And at 4 p.m. on the afternoon of the speech, the space was opened, every seat filling within minutes.

With a capacity crowd at the Kellogg Global Hub for Biden’s speech, there was a special kind of energy. The audience had filled every possible space. The plaza’s Spanish Steps were packed, and hundreds more of us sat on the main floor, with further spectators lining the balconies three stories up. The atmosphere was electric.

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Kellogg community at the Global Hub

Introduced by Dean Sally Blount and Professor Ben Harris, Biden’s speech focused on a wide range of current social and economic challenges to the U.S. He spoke passionately about the plight of the American middle class and the need for policies to address the hardships faced by communities across the country. He focused particularly on the Midwest, as its traditional sources of employment and job security declines. Covering education, organized labor, health care, immigration, business regulation and government spending, Biden painted a powerful argument for a fairer society and challenged his MBA audience to tackle these broader socio-economic issues in their careers ahead.

Speaking with Biden after the event, he told me of his travels to my home city of Dublin and how, due to his own family’s Irish-immigrant past, he knew Ireland well. It was an extraordinary “only at Kellogg” type of evening – one of many I’ve had over the past 18 months.

Events like this are one of the most valuable and impressive aspects of the Kellogg experience. So many leaders from business, politics and government come to campus to speak to students, typically invited by faculty or the students themselves. In this case, Biden’s visit was facilitated by two of Kellogg’s faculty members: Visiting Associate Professor Ben Harris, who was the former chief economic advisor to Mr. Biden, and Professor Janice Eberly, the former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury and faculty director of Kellogg’s Public-Private Interface. This is typical of Kellogg – the professors with whom we get to work are often leading figures in business and public policy themselves, and eager to share their experience and their contacts with the Kellogg community.

While Biden sadly didn’t join us all for a post-event beer at TG that Friday night, everyone enjoyed coming together to compare thoughts on the speech itself. For me, this was truly Kellogg at its best. A seamless, high-profile event with one of the world’s leading statesmen, followed by beers and chips with some of the smartest classmates you’ll find.