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Jefferson Society hosts former Biden Chief of Staff

Steve Ricchetti speaks about his 30 years of experience in public service, business and politics

<p>Steve Ricchetti, the chief of staff for former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the University.</p>

Steve Ricchetti, the chief of staff for former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the University.

The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society hosted Steve Ricchetti on Friday as part of the Spring 2017 Distinguished Speakers Series. Ricchetti previously served as chief of staff to former Vice President Joe Biden.

In addition to his position under Biden, Ricchetti has also served as deputy chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, founded the political consulting firm Ricchetti, Inc. and is currently the managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The society puts on a distinguished speaker series every semester with the goal of bringing thought-provoking speakers from a variety of ideological backgrounds to the University and hearing what they say and engaging with those ideas and asking critical questions,” said Jack Chellman, president of the Jefferson Society and a third-year College student.

Ricchetti was asked to speak in order to share his experience and advice with students and members of the community.

“Mr. Ricchetti is unique in that he’s not a political theorist, he’s someone who’s made politics happen on a day-to-day basis,” Chellman said. “He can provide a really interesting look at what it really means to be involved in politics on the ground rather than some pie in the sky thought about politics.”

Although Ricchetti’s speech was titled “How The White House Works: the Evolving Role of the Vice President,” Ricchetti spent most of his holding an informal question and answer session with the attendees after a brief time spent talking about the importance of public service and a call for attendees to help others with their life.

“We need more people participating, more people in the game, more people of every variety, of every walk of life, of every professional background, of every interest to participate in public life and public service in all of the ways that it exists,” Ricchetti said. “No matter what you’re interested in, no matter what your politics, no matter food you like to eat, no matter how you like to recreate, how you like to play, who you like to be around there is an opportunity to serve other people, help other people out and participate in public life.”

Ricchetti also discussed the importance of forming personal connections.

“The thing that’s actually more important is this other stuff, this connection with other human beings, face to face, eye to eye, the human connection. If you don’t start there you miss the entire point of the whole enterprise,” Ricchetti said. “You’re supposed to use the opportunities that you have, I would argue, to serve others.”

In addition to sharing several stories about his own experiences in the White House working with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Ricchetti expressed a personal dislike for President Donald Trump but urged for bipartisanship — recounting how he had worked to help the staff of former President George W. Bush and Mike Pence after their transitions.

“There aren’t people there who have ill motivation about the country. You don’t do these jobs that way. People believe in the country, they believe in each other and even the politics. I am rooting for Donald Trump to succeed, because it’s important for the country,” Ricchetti said. “There’s a lot about what he’s doing that I don’t like, but for the country I want our president, our vice president, our Congress to work together to solve problems and for us to be less partisan, less political and less dysfunctional.”

When asked about the possibility of a future presidential campaign for Biden, Ricchetti said Biden has not decided whether he will run in 2020.