In Kentucky, Joe Biden calls Mubarak resignation 'a pivotal moment in history'

jbrammer@herald-leader.comFebruary 12, 2011 

LOUISVILLE — Speaking in Kentucky, Vice President Joe Biden called the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "a pivotal moment in history" that hopefully will lead to a democracy.

He also urged the Islamic regime of Iran to let its people speak freely.

"I say to our Iranian friends: Let your people march. Let your people speak. Release your people," Biden said as the crowd of about 1,200 responded with its loudest applause of the day.

His comments on developments in the Middle East were the first from President Barack Obama's administration on Friday and came during a speech on the University of Louisville campus.

Biden was at U of L as a guest of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, to speak at the McConnell Center's 20th annual Spring Lecture Series. Biden's speech was delayed for more than 30 minutes because of Mubarak's resignation Friday morning.

Biden, who spoke for 50 minutes at the Brown & Williamson Club at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, said he did not want to detract from Obama's message on Egypt delivered later in the day.

But he said the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people and that violence against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable.

"The transition that's taking place must be an irreversible change in a negotiated path toward democracy," he said.

All Americans — Democrats and Republicans — should speak with one voice on the need for democracy in Egypt, he said.

The 47th vice president of the United States also was greeted with applause when he spoke of efforts to remove American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Biden spent most of his speech dispelling what he said were myths of our times. They were that America's political system is broken, America can't compete in the 21st century and that America will be mired in wars for generations.

"America's best days are ahead," Biden said.

McConnell introduced Biden and said their "working relationship" is still strong. Biden served 36 years in the U.S. Senate from Delaware before becoming vice president in 2008.

McConnell did not mention the developments in Egypt.

He joked that Biden has a "life-long love affair with words — especially his own."

Biden said of all the politicians he has worked with, "Mitch knows how to count better than anyone I know." He was referring to McConnell's knowledge of how senators will vote on issues.

Biden was to have a private meeting with 38 U of L students before he left Kentucky.

Attendees at his speech included Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, state Auditor Crit Luallen, state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, Secretary of State Elaine Walker and Lexington attorney Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is facing Walker in the May Democratic primary election for secretary of state.

Democratic governor Steve Beshear, who is seeking re-election this year, was at the Capitol in Frankfort.

The McConnell Center conducts a series of programs and conferences designed to improve Kentucky's understanding of history, assist citizens in developing a better understanding of the U.S. Constitution and American history and encourage discussion of public issues.

After leaving Louisville, Biden went to Fort Campbell to welcome home a combat team returning from Afghanistan.

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