Amid reports he is gearing up to run for president, former Vice President Joe Biden delivered a speech on Tuesday to sing the praises of those who enter public service.
Biden acknowledged that Americans hold public servants in low esteem due to ongoing attacks on the country’s institutions, but implored government workers to remain committed to their duties and inspire the next generation. The former vice president, speaking to a room of civil servants and public administration educators at the American Society for Public Administration’s annual conference in downtown Washington, D.C., called for a new era in which public service is once again celebrated.
“Dedicated public servants are the lifeblood of democracy,” Biden said. “It doesn’t function without them.”
Biden recalled his own path into public life, naming the professors at the University of Delaware who convinced him he could truly “make things better for other people.” He added that the civil servants in the audience do exactly that every day.
“Sometimes I think you severely underestimate the impact you have on so many people,” Biden said.
He decried the “operation in charge now” for putting “under enormous stress” the guardrails in place to protect the nation’s institutions, suggesting they are “being attacked in a concentrated effort.” Biden likened the current political moment to that of the Great Depression, when President Franklin Roosevelt said government was “frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”
During that era, he said, people wondered whether government could really deliver for them. It “got people thinking that public servants, elected officials, didn’t understand.” That same perspective is now seeing a resurgence among the American populace, which Biden attributed to people who personally benefit from the narrative that government does not work. “It’s only natural,” he said. “They don’t see a dedicated public service trying to solve their problems.”
He called on the public servants to help create a new narrative, to, as he put it, “Spread the faith.”
“Some of you write the rules, some of you analyze the budget,” Biden said. “You’re the keepers of the faith. You’re the tenders of the flame that keeps all of us believing in American democracy.”
Through the “storms” we are currently experiencing, Biden explained, people end up seeing the value of public service. He called on those currently in government, “the firekeepers of public service,” to inspire the next generation becoming newly engaged in public life.
“I still have faith and I hope you do too,” Biden said. “There are a lot of young people waiting to hear from you.”