VIRGINIA BEACH, VA -- As President Obama and Mitt Romney clashed in minutes-apart addresses in Ohio, the president's top lieutenant appeared in a different swing state to implore high school graduates to ignore negativity and cynicism as the nation's future is rapidly reshaped by new technologies.
"There's a lot of talk these days, you hear a cacophony of voices that America's future is not as bright as its past," Vice President Joe Biden told seniors at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach. "I'm here to tell you don't believe it for a moment."
"Don't give in to the cynicism, the pettiness and the negativity that you see and hear all around you that pervades our public discourse," Biden told the 463 graduates. "Believe in yourself, because you have reason to. And believe -- because there's no reason not to believe in the continued promise of this great country."
The vice president warned students to consider the values of "tolerance, respect, and understanding" as their generation deploys new technologies such as social media both here and abroad.
"As the world continues to shrink, the cultural divides that have separated us do not shrink," he said. "The lines marking cultural and religious differences do not blur. In fact those lines become more stark as we confront those differences up close. After all, the same technology that can inspire a democratic revolution across the Middle East [can] spread gossip, innuendo and lies around the world just as rapidly."
The Virginia Beach area narrowly favored Republican John McCain over Barack Obama in the 2008 election by a margin of less than one percent.
Biden's third and final commencement address of the spring season was markedly similar to the one he delivered last week at a Miami-area high school, although the vice president offered a particular focus on the Virginia Beach area's heavy military community.
Noting his son's 2008 deployment to Iraq as a JAG, he recognized the sacrifices of both troops and the families they leave behind -- many like the students celebrating their graduation today.
"My son, Beau Biden, spent a year in Iraq, and I watched the impact on my grandchildren," he said. "The games missed, the birthdays missed, the Christmases missed, the empty seat at Thanksgiving dinner."
Tallwood boasts a "global studies and world languages" honors program, which encourages students to gain an international perspective. Curriculum includes coursework like "International Business," "Global Economics," and "Music and Art in China." Students also focus on two languages, with Arabic, Russian, and Chinese among the offerings.
Biden lauded those graduates Thursday, saying that their mastery of foreign languages will serve as a much needed asset for the country. "We will need you," he declared.
Later in the day, Biden travels back to Delaware to appear at a fundraising event to benefit his son Beau, who serves as that state's attorney general.