Wel­come to our con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2014 in Detroit, Michi­gan. This after­noon, for the first time in the his­to­ry of the con­ven­tion (which began in 2006), the Vice Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States will be speak­ing to the thou­sands of activists who reunite every year to coor­di­nate the build­ing of a stronger pro­gres­sive move­ment in the Unit­ed States and around the world.

The speech is Biden’s third stop of the day. Pre­vi­ous­ly he attend­ed an event for the Michi­gan Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coor­di­nat­ed Cam­paign Com­mit­tee at the West­in Book Cadil­lac. He then vis­it­ed the Step IT Up Amer­i­ca pro­gram at Wayne Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege with May­or Michael Dug­gan. His speech at Net­roots Nation will be his last offi­cial event of the day before return­ing to the Dis­trict of Columbia.

We are cur­rent­ly wait­ing for Biden to arrive. He’s late, but there’s appar­ent­ly a very good rea­son for that. Most atten­dees have at least a smart­phone or tablet to keep them occu­pied, if not table companions.

UPDATE, 4:15 PM: The motor­cade has arrived and we should be get­ting start­ed in a few min­utes. What fol­lows will be a recap of the Vice Pres­i­den­t’s speech.

Biden was intro­duced by Pro­gress­Now’s Arshad Hasan, who repeat­ed­ly praised the vice pres­i­dent for his can­dor and deter­mi­na­tion, before ask­ing the con­ven­tion to give the vice pres­i­dent a roar­ing wel­come. And the crowd cer­tain­ly did.

A jovial Biden made his way to the podi­um as he received a rau­cous stand­ing ova­tion. Thank­ing Hasan for his intro­duc­tion, he joked that he could “almost hear the press sali­vat­ing.” Address­ing his remarks on Meet the Press sup­port­ing mar­riage equal­i­ty, which Hasan had referred to and which pre­empt­ed Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s ABC News inter­view on the sub­ject, he said his com­ments were not planned, but he likes to be direct when he gets questions.

Biden told atten­dees that what he loves about the net­roots is our pas­sion. Dis­cussing the recent advances made by advo­cates for LGBT civ­il rights, Biden said he did­n’t free the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty, they and many decent straight peo­ple deserved the cred­it for the for­ward momen­tum on mar­riage equal­i­ty and civ­il rights.

Biden explained that he was near­ly an hour late arriv­ing for his speech because he had been deal­ing with the crash of Malaysian Air­lines Flight 17, which went down in Ukraine today. Some three hun­dred lives were lost, and the plane was appar­ent­ly delib­er­ate­ly shot down. Biden explained that he had been on the phone with the Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent regard­ing the tragedy. A pas­sen­ger man­i­fest has not con­firmed yet, but plane may have been car­ry­ing Amer­i­can citizens.

Joe Biden studies the audience at Netroots Nation during his Thursday afternoon keynote. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)
Joe Biden stud­ies the audi­ence at Net­roots Nation dur­ing his Thurs­day after­noon keynote. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Shift­ing gears, Biden said that one thing he has learned in his many years in pol­i­tics that show­ing up is half the bat­tle. He thanked the net­roots for show­ing up and mak­ing change, and for refram­ing the debate… for exam­ple, help­ing Amer­i­cans rec­og­nize that health­care is a basic right and not a priv­i­lege. “We share a com­mit­ment to the val­ues that made this coun­try excep­tion­al,” Biden told the audi­ence. He added that when he gets asked abroad what makes Amer­i­ca great, he responds that it is our sense of fair­ness and car­ing for others.

In a rebuke to for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, Biden pro­ceed­ed to declare that he takes a back seat to no one on nation­al defense. But he says that it is just as impor­tant to feed peo­ple in our coun­try as it is to defend America.

Biden com­pared him­self to Mikey from the Life cere­al com­mer­cials when it comes his role bro­ker­ing deals in Con­gress, which brought laugh­ter from the crowd. He stressed the need for the pro­gres­sive move­ment to define what is for and what it wants to accom­plish both in the short and long term.

“We have to state with­out apol­o­gy what we are for and why. If every­thing is equal­ly impor­tant to you, then noth­ing is impor­tant to you… We have to be crys­tal clear on what the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples that this democ­ra­cy is built on and stick to those fun­da­men­tals. Which includes LGBT rights [and] equal pay.”

“The abuse of pow­er is the worst sin that can be com­mit­ted. And the worst is for a man rais­ing his hand to a woman includ­ing sex­u­al assault on col­lege campuses.”

Biden also told the con­ven­tion that it is impor­tant for Amer­i­cans to have unfet­tered access to the bal­lot box. “This is a fight that may not be on top of every­one’s agen­da, but it is a very impor­tant fight,” he said.

Touch­ing on the need for envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, Biden emphat­i­cal­ly stat­ed, “Cli­mate change is real… if we don’t con­trol it we will be mort­gag­ing the future of human­i­ty.” He expressed con­fi­dence that Amer­i­ca could lead on tack­ling the cri­sis. The peo­ple with the courage to move are the ones who are fuel­ing Amer­i­ca’s dynamism, giv­ing the U.S. cred­i­bil­i­ty on the world stage.

Com­ment­ing on income inequal­i­ty, Biden reaf­firmed his belief that every Amer­i­can deserves a fair shot at a job. Biden told Net­roots Nation he believes in a nation of earned income as well as unearned income. Work­ers need to be respect­ed as much as Wall Street investors. How­ev­er, many employ­ers are not respect­ing their work­ers, who have become the most pro­duc­tive work­ers in the world. They are not shar­ing in the wealth cre­at­ed by that pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. The bar­gain between work­er and employ­er is bro­ken today, Biden lament­ed. He added that fix­ing that bar­gain is the Pres­i­den­t’s top pri­or­i­ty, as well as his.

“When the mid­dle class los­es its faith in the sys­tem, we lose the glue that keeps the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic sys­tems sta­ble,” Biden said. “When we act as one Amer­i­ca, we suc­ceed. The mid­dle class needs to know that when they put in they get includ­ed in the deal and not cut out. The poor need to know that when they try, there is a chance they can succeed.”

“In a coun­try as big and as diverse as Amer­i­ca there will be divi­sions. How do you define an Amer­i­can oth­er than by a set of prin­ci­ples they believe in?”

“But our pol­i­tics have become so cyn­i­cal, so cor­ro­sive, that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are sick and tired of pol­i­tics today.”

Nev­er­the­less, Biden said we can­not give up.

“We can rise to what the Amer­i­can peo­ple demand. We can debate with­out being demean­ing. We can make sure we are heard and demon­strate that we are will­ing to lis­ten. The Amer­i­can peo­ple aren’t divid­ed [and did­n’t cre­ate the divi­sions that are por­trayed in our media]; Amer­i­can pol­i­tics have divid­ed America.”

Joe Biden waves
Joe Biden waves to the crowd at Net­roots Nation after fin­ish­ing his speech. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Biden said he has always been an opti­mist and that won’t change.

“It is with­in our pow­er to inno­vate new ener­gy tech­nolo­gies. Imag­ine not call­ing abuse ‘domes­tic’. Imag­ine a coun­try that not only leads by exam­ple of pow­er, but by pow­er of our exam­ple. Your ener­gy and pas­sion will con­tin­ue to be the force that dri­ves debate. The Amer­i­can peo­ple have always been ahead (civ­il rights, for exam­ple). We need you. The coun­try needs you.”

Biden’s clos­ing thought was an appeal to the con­ven­tion to believe in Amer­i­ca and the Amer­i­can peo­ple. “Ordi­nary peo­ple, hard­work­ing peo­ple are smart,” Biden said. “Do not con­de­scend that they do not know what they need.”

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