On October 12, former Vice President Joe Biden visited Rutgers to speak at the It’s On Us rally as part of the Turn the Campus Purple week to raise awareness and prevention of sexual assault. I was one of the few people who got a ticket in the few hours before they sold out, and I’m so grateful that I did, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As part of the Honors Colloquium class that I’m in, a one-credit class for students in the SAS Honors Program, I have to attend two events outside of class and write about them. This was one of mine, and I wanted to share the response that I wrote so that anyone who didn’t get a chance to hear him speak in person can hear about the experience. Here is my response, written the weekend after I attended the event:
This past Thursday afternoon, I attended the It’s On Us rally with special guest Vice President Joe Biden. As I stood in line to get in, I thought back to the first time I remember really caring about politics. It was election night in 2007, and eight-year-old me was watching the election coverage on TV with my family. It was an especially exciting election, I was told, because if Obama and Biden won, it would be the first time America had an African-American president. I remember being happy when Obama won, even though I didn’t understand much beyond the fact that he was the first African-American president. In Obama and Biden’s eight years in office, I grew up, graduated elementary and middle school and went through much of high school. I learned a lot about politics and formed political opinions of my own. I watched Obama and Biden work together to change this country for the better; saying that I was sad to see them leave office is an understatement. Even though they are not in office anymore, I still admire them for everything they worked for while in office. Having the opportunity to see Biden himself speak about an issue he, and I, am extremely passionate about, was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It’s On Us is a campaign established during Obama’s time in office as an effort to stop sexual assaults from occurring, especially on college campuses. Before Biden spoke, multiple survivors of sexual assault spoke about their experiences and how they’ve moved on and recovered from them. As they spoke, the audience cheered for them and supported them, providing them with strength to help them speak about such a hard time in their lives. Next, Shockwave, Rutgers’s all-female acapella group, performed a couple songs about strength. Finally, Biden was introduced, and after a bit of opening banter about Rutgers University and University of Delaware, Biden spoke. During the one hour duration of his speech, he talked about the It’s On Us campaign, explained why he is so passionate about this issue, and shared the stories of victims of sexual assault that he met throughout the many years he’s worked to combat the ever-growing problem. When he spoke most passionately, we cheered and clapped in support. After the speech, Biden stayed in the room to meet some of the students who came to hear him speak. Although I, unfortunately, did not get a chance to meet the Vice President because he had to go catch a plane, I watched as he made his way around the room, taking time to really speak and connect with each person he met. He hugged people as they cried, and happily took photos with people. I could really tell how much he cared about each and every one of the students that attended the rally. As I left the College Avenue Gym, I felt so inspired and so happy that I got to witness his incredible speech.
Although I have never been sexually assaulted myself, and I am very grateful for that, so many people in the world have, so many people I know have, some that I may not even know about. It’s our job to watch out for suspicious actions and do whatever we can to stop them and help the victim, especially if they don’t realize they need it. It’s on us to make a difference here at Rutgers and in the world.