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Joe Biden blasted online echo chambers in a speech at Cornell University

The former vice president pleaded with Cornell’s graduates to practice empathy and not live in their screens.

Milken Institute Global Conference 2017 Frederick M. Brown / Getty

The class of 2017 will have to put their phones and computers away sometimes if they want to restore civility to America, former Vice President Joe Biden said to Cornell University’s graduates Saturday.

Speaking one day before the school’s students officially graduate, Biden urged them to be empathetic with everyone, including and especially their political foes.

“The people I’ve known who are successful and happy are the people who treat others with the same dignity that they demand for themselves,” he said. “To do that, you will have to fight the urge to build a self-referential, self-reinforcing and self-righteous echo chamber of yourself online.”

“I mean it, I mean it sincerely,” he added. “Living in your screens encourages shallow and antiseptic relationships that make it too easy to reduce the ‘other’ to stereotypes. They’re not flattened versions of humanity. They’re a whole person: Flawed, struggling to make the world better, just like you. To make it in the world, just like you.”

Watch the full speech here. It starts at the 1:39 mark:

Like fellow Democratic politician Hillary Clinton, who spoke Friday at Wellesley College, Biden avoided referencing President Trump by name. But he railed against the rise of the politics of fear, and against the idea that “build[ing] a wall” or “keeping Muslims out” would fix people’s economic insecurity.

Saying he was “tired of both political parties,” he called on politicians to not “think small” and to work at understanding why some Americans may be “susceptible to this kind of negative appeal.”

“Globalization has cost some of them their livelihoods,” Biden said. “Digitalization, Moore’s Law, artificial intelligence — with overwhelming, significant promise — is also generating great anxiety among the great working middle class of this country. Some communities are struggling to get by and they’re worried they won’t be able to keep up.”

He called on young people to also reach out to those who are struggling, promising that partisan divisions would heal in time: “The American people will not sustain this attitude for long, I promise you.”

“You may fundamentally disagree with them, but it’s hard to dislike them,” Biden said. “... It’s awful hard to reach a consensus, and you can’t govern this country without consensus. It’s the way we talk to one another, the way we talk toward one another, that really matters.”

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