(CNN) – Vice President Joe Biden encouraged high school graduates to dream big and avoid cynicism, recounting in a commencement speech Monday his memory of the president's inauguration day as an example of progress.
Speaking to graduates of Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida - a key swing state this November - Biden threaded his speech with standard graduation language and strongly urged students not to settle for the status quo.
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"Don't give in to the cynicism, the pettiness and the negativity that so often pervades our public discourse. Believe in yourself, and believe in the promise of this country," he said, with Marlins Park in Miami as the backdrop for the ceremony.
The vice president told the story of waiting for President Barack Obama to pick him up in Delaware on the way to the presidential inauguration in January 2009.
As Biden stood on the train platform that day – Obama was retracing part of the route taken by Abraham Lincoln to his inauguration, going from Philadelphia to Washington – Biden said he looked out at the city of Wilmington and remembered civil rights riots taking place 40 years prior.
At that moment, he said, he paused to reflect on the change that had taken place.
"I was being picked up by a friend, an African-American friend. Barack Obama. We were taking - regardless of your politics, this is not a political comment. It's about transition in America," Biden said.
He continued: "We were taking that short ride to be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States of America. Not only can and do we live together. We now govern together. That much changed in 40 years. Just think what's going to change in the next 40 years of your life."
Democratic National Committee Chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz also spoke at the ceremony Monday, as the school is in her congressional district in South Florida. She praised the vice president for "rearranging (his) entire life" and making the trip to the school one day after his daughter's wedding.
With Florida to be a hotly contested state in the general election this year, Biden and Obama have frequently traveled to the Sunshine State this year on both campaign and official business.
Obama won Florida in 2008 with 51% of the vote, but Republicans have since made big gains, and the state is widely expected to be tougher battleground for Democrats this cycle.