Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, congratulates Colby College graduate Kieran Adams during 196th commencement in Waterville on Sunday, May 21, 2017. Biden gave the commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. (David Leaming/The Central Maine Morning Sentinel via AP)

WATERVILLE — Former Vice President Joe Biden gave assurances Sunday that the country’s current divisiveness brought on by a presidential election that “churned up some of the ugliest realities” of society will be temporary.

Biden told graduating seniors at Colby College to resist the impulse to throw up their hands after an election that played to society’s “baser instincts.”

“It’s time for America to get up. It’s time to regain our sense of unity and purpose. It’s time for us to restart realizing who in God’s name we are,” he said during a sunny commencement address on the library lawn.

 

The Democrat who served two terms alongside President Barack Obama expressed his own disbelief in the state of affairs.

President David Greene, left, and commencement speaker former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Jr. smile at graduates as they receive their diplomas during Colby College commencement ceremonies in Waterville on May 21, 2017. Biden also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. (David Leaming/The Central Maine Morning Sentinel via AP)

“This past election cycle churned up some of the ugliest realities in our country. Civilized discourse and real debate gave way to the coarsest rhetoric and stoking of our darkest emotions,” he said.

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But he said the corrosive politics and us-against-them populism won’t be permanent. “I assure you it’s temporary. I assure you it’s transitory. The American people will not sustain this attitude,” he said.

He encouraged the 480 graduates from 36 states and 42 countries to resist the temptation to retreat into their own bubbles, engaging in a comfortable lifestyle and surrounding themselves by people with similar viewpoints.

Instead, he encouraged them to get out and take risks, to treat others with dignity, and to build bonds of empathy with others.

“Life can’t be lived in a self-referential, self-reinforcing, self-righteous echo chamber we build for ourselves online. Living on screens encourages shallow and antiseptic relationships that make it easy to reduce others to stereotypes, to write another human being off as a bad person,” he said.

Biden never mentioned Republican President Donald Trump by name but he came close when he talked about standing up to sexual harassment and sexual violence.

He made a reference to so-called sexually charged locker room conversations — referencing Trump’s downplaying of lewd remarks as “locker room talk” — before telling the group: “It doesn’t go on like someone said it does.”

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during Colby College commencement ceremonies in Waterville on Sunday, May 21, 2017. Biden also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. (Dennis Griggs/Courtesy of Colby College via AP)


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