Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Robinette BidenButtigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now MORE on Wednesday said leadership in the U.S. is "giving license" to acts of prejudice.

“We are in a battle for the soul of this nation. We have to recognize that trend lines are moving in the wrong direction," Biden said while speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., marking the tenth anniversary the Lantos Foundation, a human rights nonprofit group. 

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The former vice president pointed to a report from the Anti-Defamation League that found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose by almost 60 percent in 2017.

“It’s not an accident," Biden said. "Our leadership is giving license to, giving license to this prejudice.”

House Democratic leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Dems walk Trump trade tightrope Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution MORE (Calif.) introduced Biden. In her remarks, she said, "Joe has stared down dictators and stood up for justice around the world, leading the charge to end violence in the Balkans, championing the rights of LGBTQ people facing persecution wherever, working to end the scourge of violence against women — he is our champion on that front."

Biden's remarks came as he accepted the Decennial Lantos Legacy Award Wednesday evening at the Lantos Foundation Gala. Biden received the award for his commitment to upholding human rights during his time in the Senate and in the White House.

The gala, held in The Willard Hotel in Washington, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, a group meant to honor the legacy and human rights work of the late former Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.).

In his acceptance speech, Biden spoke of his relationship with Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to be elected to the House.

“He was always first in the fray to speak out against injustice,” Biden said.

The former vice president said he and the former lawmaker visited Budapest, where Lantos was born.

“Tom gave me a glimpse of what it was like in the '30s and '40s,” Biden said.

For Lantos, he added, “there was no fight too hard.”

Biden is thought to be considering taking on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE with a run for the presidency in 2020. He said earlier this week that he believes he is the "most qualified" person in the U.S. to be president.

“I'll be as straight with you as I can. I think I'm the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden said at a book tour stop in Montana. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I've worked on my whole life.”

The gala also honored Joshua Wong with the 2018 Lantos Human Rights Prize. At age 17, Wong mobilized over 100,000 Hong Kong citizens in the 2014 "Umbrella Movement" in support of expanded democratic reforms.

Because the Chinese government has seized his passport, Wong could not travel to Washington for the award.

Nathan Law and Agnes Chow, two students who support Wong’s human rights work, accepted the award on his behalf.

--Updated at 1:20 p.m.