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Biden Urges Graduates to Be Engaged Citizens at 1976 Commencement

Biden Urges Graduates to Be Engaged Citizens at 1976 Commencement
President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., a native of Scranton, served as the principal speaker at The University of Scranton’s undergraduate commencement ceremony in 1976.

In 1976, then-U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the graduating class at The University of Scranton there was “a crisis in American leadership.”

President-Elect Biden, set to receive an honorary degree from Scranton that year, stepped in to serve as the principal speaker at the University’s undergraduate commencement when President Gerald Ford was unable to attend.

Rev. William J. Byron, S.J., then president of The University of Scranton (with then-Senator Biden in image below), recalled that he and former Governor William Scranton, a close friend of the University, had made arrangements for then-President Ford to speak at the commencement. Father Byron was aware that Ford’s schedule could change at a moment’s notice, so he wanted to have a back-up plan.

“I got the idea of inviting Joe Biden, who just was elected to the U.S. Senate a few years before,” Father Byron said of the Scranton native who was elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29.


“We invited him to come back to Scranton to receive an honorary degree. We would bring his old neighborhood pals together to celebrate his achievement of becoming a senator,” Father Byron said. “When I talked to Biden, I said, ‘By the way, President Ford is going to be the speaker, but in the event that he cannot make it and his plans change, would you be willing to be the speaker?’ Biden said sure, and that, in fact, was the way it happened.”

The bicentennial year of the United States marked the first presidential election after Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon.

“I don’t think there has ever been as much doubt in America as there is today,” Biden told the 880 graduates and their families assembled in the Long Center for the 1976 commencement.

Read the full article, here.

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