On October 5th, the Center for Strategic and International Studies honored former Vice President Joe Biden with the second Zbigniew Brzezinski Annual Prize at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The annual prize honors the legacy of Dr. Brzezinski, a prominent figure in U.S. foreign policy, by recognizing and promoting the importance of geostrategic thinking with a moral purpose. Vice President Biden has spent his career in and out of the White House as an advocate for diplomacy, international relations, human rights, and social justice, establishing him as a fundamental figure shaping the United States’ foreign policy.
Given Vice President Biden’s foreign relations background and his experience travelling and meeting with various world leaders, he has helped raise awareness of the importance of diplomacy in ensuring the unity and safety of the world’s citizens. During his award speech, he repeatedly expressed the theme of making hope and history rhyme, a stanza he quoted from The Cure at Troy, a Seamus Heaney poem. He highlighted the important role the United States plays in ensuring world peace by reminding the audience that America’s strength lies not in its military power, but in its morals. Although his speech was highly political, the undertone underscored the progression of human rights and the overall future of humanity. He stressed that the only way to guarantee this progression was to restructure how the United States frames the current state of affairs.
He finally lambasted the current administration’s isolationist approach and its approach to communicating with foreign leaders, such as Russia’s President Putin and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un. For the international community to jointly recognize the importance of human rights and the importance of certain freedoms and dignity, the U.S. must lead by espousing the importance of diplomacy with even the most irrational of characters. Rather than spread fear and hate, Americans need to hear their leader express that peace, not war, is the only solution. Vice President Biden said, “fear obscures reason,” and he encouraged foreign policy that aims to serve the interests of all, not just America. He praised the strength of America’s international institutions and their advocacy for human rights and freedoms, and how these institutions motivate others across the world to become advocates for their citizens when their country’s governments are trying to suppress them. Nonetheless, the fear that the current United State presidential administration is attempting to propagate fuels isolationist rhetoric. In turn, this rhetoric will discourage Americans from prioritizing foreign relations and investments in institutional freedoms abroad, since the country’s morals will only hold true for Americans, rather than for the millions of people abroad who suffer various injustices, inequities, and human rights violations.
However, Vice President Biden’s entire speech had an air of optimism. He reminded the audience that the United States is a country whose foundation is built on morals, and these morals are shared all over the world. These morals encourage world leaders to do better by their people by creating rules and policies that eliminate human rights abuses. These morals remind Americans to speak out against cruelty and violence in all parts of the world, not just at home. Finally, Vice President Biden reminded the audience that these morals are strong enough to withstand the negative discourse of the current administration.
It was uplifting to finally hear a member of the past administration acknowledge and criticize the stance of the current administration’s lack of diplomatic efforts.I It is very important to highlight diplomacy, rather than isolation and aggression, to promote respect for human rights, especially since politics and isolationist policies seem to take precedent for President Trump at the moment. Hopefully this speech is just the beginning for politicians on both sides to abandon party affiliations so they can finally stand up to Trump’s policies and inspire moral unity.