Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenSantorum: Dems have a chance in 2020 if they pick someone ‘unexpected’ The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Trump taps William Barr as new AG | Nauert picked to replace Haley at UN | Washington waits for bombshell Mueller filing Warren fell for ‘Trump trap’ with DNA test, says progressive 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 PelosiCongress digs in for prolonged Saudi battle Disputed North Carolina race raises prospect of congressional probe The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown 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 TrumpCorsi sues Mueller for alleged leaks and illegal surveillance Comey: Trump 'certainly close' to being unindicted co-conspirator Trump pushes back on reports that Ayers was first pick for chief of staff 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.