When Vice President Joe Biden Came to Town
Did you bump into a secret service man on your way to Schine this Friday? An orange alumnus was on campus this week, and he’s not exactly your Average Joe. A wave of eager students dominated University Place en route to hear the Vice President of the United States on November 12.
“I waited outside for two hours. I’m looking forward to hearing [Biden] speak on It’s On Us because he’s played such a pivotal role on campuses with sexual assault,” said freshman Hannah Fleager.
Vice President Joe Biden, Class of 1968, proudly proclaimed his love of FAC and Syracuse orange at the It’s On Us event in a packed Goldstein Auditorium Friday morning. The event flowed smoothly, showcasing performances by Main Squeeze, Orange Appeal, and the SU Marching Band between PSA videos starring celebrities and actual Syracuse students, all leading up to a series of passionate speakers.
One of those speakers was our own Samantha Skaller, a junior in Setnor and representative for the It’s On Us national campaign. The campaign was implemented by Biden last year and is already supported by more than 300 colleges across the United States. During the National Week of Action, students nationwide came together to promote over 1,000 events to raise awareness and ultimately end sexual and relationship violence on college campuses.
“It took me nearly four months to be able to say the word ‘rape’ out loud,” said Skaller. “I stand here today to break the silence.”
The crowd roared as Biden took the stage, who thanked Skaller for her bravery to share her own story of assault and Chancellor Syverud for allowing him back on campus. Biden’s charm warmed the audience and yielded shock when his passion raised the volume as he spoke on the issue of sexual assault.
“When historians look back to see what kind of nation we have been, they’ll look to see how we have treated the defenseless among us,” said Biden, referring to the 1 in 5 college students sexually assaulted each year. “The truth is, guys, one – one is too many.”
Surveying the room, Biden gazed into each section of the audience, igniting a sense of connection.
“You know sexual assault is not about sex,” said Biden. “It’s about power.” After urging attendees to think critically about the standards of today versus those of our grandparents’ youth, Biden shared the story of a young model, Marla Hanson, whose face was scarred by a man after she refused to sleep with him. When Biden explored the situation among Hanson’s friends and family, they blamed the occurrence on her short skirt.
“‘I should have somehow known better.’ What a sick standard!” said Biden. “I realized then that this was a generational fight.”
Biden admitted that it is difficult for young people, especially men, to take action in a moment of potential danger. He mentioned his late son, Beau, and the adversity he faced after confronting a teammate and being beaten up for speaking out. While Biden encouraged all to take the #ItsOnUs pledge, he geared his speech mostly toward the men in the audience.
“Be a man! Get involved. Have the gumption to step in,” Biden’s voice bellowed through the rafters as the audience fell silent. “The real definition of manhood is having the courage to do the right thing.”
Biden both admonished and empowered, affecting every soul in the auditorium. Other speakers included Congressman John Katko, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Director of the SU Counseling Center Cory Wallack.
Sexual and relationship violence is real. Nothing is going to change that, except for us. Your gender identity, ethnicity, age, social status - whatever it is that is holding you back from speaking out – should not be a factor. Let your voice be heard. Be brave. If you see something, say something. Take the #ItsOnUs pledge and visit http://itsonus.org/ to learn how you can help end sexual assault on college campuses.