When introducing the vice president, Penn provost Vincent Price cited Biden's 36 years in the Senate and pointed to his role in the landmark 1994 crime bill and the recently renewed Violence Against Women Act. Price also paid tribute to Biden's reputation for joviality, joking that the vice president "minimizes his browser whenever President Obama walks by."

True to his reputation, Biden's remarks were punctuated by jokes. 

After being awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Penn President Amy Gutmann, Biden quipped: "It's much cheaper to get a degree this way, isn't it?"

Striking a more serious tone, Biden drew a parallel between his own graduating class and the class of 2013. He recalled graduating in 1968 into an uncertain world of the Vietnam War and civil rights riots, and a fiscal crisis much like the one young people face today. 

But in spite of obstacles, he urged students to challenge "orthodoxy" in order to "lead the world in the 21st century." 

"It's never ever ever been a good bet to bet against America, and it's a very bad bet to bet against your generation," Biden told graduates. "You are the most competent, capable, caring generation this country has ever produced, and I am confident you will write a new and better chapter of American history."