Joe Biden delivered a powerful speech about 'the only bipartisan thing left in America.'

'I assure you there’s still a lot of really decent people left in the Congress in both parties.'

For nearly an hour on March 12, 2017, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to an audience of innovators at South by Southwest about a topic very close to his heart: cancer.

He was there to discuss the newly formed Biden Foundation's Cancer Initiative, something of an outgrowth of the "Cancer Moonshot" task force Biden led during his final year in office.

Former Vice President Joe Biden outlines his cancer initiative at SXSW. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP.


On May 30, 2015, Biden's son Beau died from brain cancer. He was just 46 years old.

The former Delaware attorney general, Army veteran, and rising star was diagnosed with the disease less than two years earlier, devastating the Biden family and ultimately leading Joe to forgo a run for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president. While Beau's passing may have cooled his father's presidential ambitions, it sparked a laser-focused passion within the patriarch. His charisma, 44 years in public service, and knowledge of Washington bureaucracy made him uniquely qualified to try to help save cancer patients and their families from having to endure heartbreak.

Beau and Joe Biden during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

It seems like there's not a lot Democrats and Republicans can agree on these days. Biden used his SXSW speech to discuss what he called the "only bipartisan thing left in America."

Cancer doesn't care whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, rich or poor, black or white, young or old. It's ruthless, and it's almost certainly touched all our lives in one way or another. It's that type of tenacity that makes fighting cancer something worth setting aside political differences for — and it's been done, even very recently.

On Dec. 13, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The bill, which set aside $6.3 billion in funding for things like medical research and drug development, passed the Senate by a vote of 94-5 and the House by 392-26. During his speech, Biden pointed to the bipartisan success of the bill, using it as a sign that, when pressed, we really can come together for the greater good.

"I assure you there’s still a lot of really decent people left in the Congress in both parties," Biden said, noting that Republican Mitch McConnell even moved to name $1.8 billion of the bill's funding after Beau.

Biden speaks at SXSW. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP.

It's easy to feel cynical, but Biden offers a bit of much-needed hope for a better world.

"I am optimistic. I’m optimistic about the American people," he said. "Given half a chance, they’ve never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever let their country down. And the core of the Republicans in the Congress and Democrats are good, decent, honorable people being almost artificially separated by a new kind of partisanship. I’m confident we can break through it. I’m confident it can be done."

And if he, a man who has seen just how broken Washington can be, still has faith that our elected officials will do the right thing, that's worth something — isn't it?

Biden speaks at SXSW. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP.

There are things we must be unwilling to postpone. The fight against cancer, a bipartisan effort, is one of them.

Biden ended his speech by invoking President John F. Kennedy:

"He talked about the effort to go to the moon as a commitment the American people had made and that they were 'unwilling to postpone.' … I am unwilling to postpone for one day longer the things we can do now to extend people’s lives — and so should you be.”

Let's be unwilling to postpone that better world.

Beau and Joe Biden hug at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Watch Biden's full SXSW speech below:

Family

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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