Vice President Biden visits UW-Eau Claire campus
If a UW-Eau Claire student hadn’t been paying attention to the news, coming to campus Thursday morning would have been jolting. Police were scattered over blocked streets, major news outlets were set up on the lawn, large crowds stood outside Zorn arena and snipers were set up on rooftops.
All of this was due to Vice President Joe Biden’s stop on the Eau Claire campus, where he gave a speech to around 3,000 students and community members in Zorn Arena.
“I think it is an opportunity for students faculty and staff to look at the speech and process and really see a more personal way of the democratic process and the election,” said Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet, who also said candidates of any political party would be welcome on campus. “We are very happy that he chose to come to Eau Claire.”
Biden spoke for nearly 45 minutes and covered topics ranging from the recent attacks in Libya, education, taxes, the national debt, Medicare and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He compared President Obama and his views to Romney and Ryan’s, focusing on the difference between the two parties and why the audience can benefit from supporting Obama.
“The country faces the starkest choice for president in my memory,” Biden said. “You see, the president and I have a fundamentally different vision than Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan.”
The university hadn’t seen an event of this size on campus in quite some time and people were excited about it. Many students said they went to the speech because it was an opportunity to see the vice president speak and they might not have the chance again, while other students had more specific reasons for attending.
Sophomore Haley Franson said she came to watch Biden speak to hear his policies for the upcoming election and to see how it was going to affect her. Freshman Kelly Boyea said she was still deciding who to vote for in November and hoped to learn more about the Democratic party.
“I’m not quite sure who I want to vote for,” Boyea said. “I think it will be interesting to hear their side while gathering information on who will be the best candidate for me to vote for this year.”
Students weren’t the only people lining the streets to see Biden speak. Brian Berthiaume of Chippewa Falls said he came to campus to take advantage of a rare opportunity and to support Biden and President Obama.
“I am pretty much mostly all Democrat and I’m pretty enthusiastic about seeing them get reelected for another four years,” Berthiaume said. “Romney doesn’t seem to have a lot of patience and he seems to be a little hot headed so I’m for Obama. I have decided who I’m going to vote for.”
With an audience of some people on the fence and the some with their decision made, the atmosphere in Zorn Arena was electric.
Biden, who referred to Romney and Ryan as “good men,” said their views for the future of the United States are flawed.
“The differences among us, the four of us … they matter a great deal to our present and future security, they matter in terms of our economic growth, and they matter in terms of American social policy, whether we progress or go back to the ‘60s; they matter,” Biden said.
On the topic of education — one of the most important topics to a crowd of mostly students — Biden relayed his recent answer to the question of America’s most important task in remaining the world’s dominant power.
“We have to be the single best-educated nation in the world …That’s why by the year 2020 we will once again have the highest number of college graduates over any nation in the world,” Biden said.
Biden received booming cheers from the crowd when education was discussed.
On the topic of the national debt, Biden said that the Obama administration is concerned and it is an important issue to them, but they want to balance the budget in a way that will keep jobs in America. He framed this belief against Romney and Ryan’s plan for big businesses.
“Governor Romney has called for a new territorial tax,” Biden said. “That means that any company who picks up or starts off an American company in China or anywhere else in the world will only have to pay the taxes in that country and never have to pay a single penny in American taxes.”
“Studies show that if we have that territorial tax it will create 800,000 jobs, all of them in China or Indonesia. All of them abroad,” Biden said. “We are doing everything in our power to create incentives for companies to come home and stay home, not incentives for companies to go abroad.”
Not everyone on campus was in support of the vice president. Senior Tim Duffy was among protesters outside of Zorn arena.
“We are out here to show our support for the Romney-Ryan ticket,” Duffy said. “We don’t believe in the big government policies that the Obama administration has been advocating and utilizing over their four-year term so far.”
Duffy didn’t attend the speech and said his involvement with current affairs keeps him educated on Biden’s views.
Junior Mary Van Caster was among those selected to sit in the risers behind Biden while he spoke. Van Caster said she was happy with the topics he covered and was impressed by the speech. Afterwards, she had the opportunity to meet Biden.
“It was an awesome experience (meeting him). I’m probably going to be telling my kids and my grandkids that I got to meet a current vice president.”