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SALT LAKE CITY — Former Vice President Joe Biden talked for almost an hour and a half to an enthusiastic University of Utah audience Thursday, but never mentioned a possible run for president in 2020.
The closest he came was during a discussion about his book, "Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose," about his eldest son, Beau, being diagnosed with brain cancer and dying less than two years later.
At the time, Biden was considering a run for president in 2016, after serving two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama. But he said the promise his son sought at the end of his life was not that his father seek the White House.
"It was, 'Promise me you'll stay engaged,'" Biden told the approximately 1,800 students and others gathered at Kingsbury Hall toward the end of a speech that focused on what motivated a life in politics.
"I found my purpose," he said. "Beau did, in a sense, save me."
That purpose includes the "moonshot" effort Biden launched as vice president to find a cure for cancer that involves the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the U. Many in the audience raised their hands when asked if they'd lost a love one to the disease.
"You'll understand what I'm talking about," Biden said.
Because the speech started late to allow the crowd to get through security, there were no questions as planned from the audience. The former vice president did not do any media interviews during his Utah visit.
Recently, Biden said he'll make a decision on the 2020 race soon.
At a similar stop in Montana earlier this month, Biden said he is "the most qualified person in the country to be president" and would announce whether he's running within six weeks to two months.
The former Delaware senator was also critical of President Donald Trump at his appearance on the University of Montana campus, saying America "can't have four more years'' of the current administration.
The former vice president's appearance was sponsored by the U. MUSE (My U Signature Experience) Project, an initiative aimed at undergraduate students. This year, the project's theme is "purpose" with Biden's book as the primary text.
A thousand copies of the book were made available to U. students and others in the university community at no charge through a grant from from the O.C. Tanner Co.
Mark Matheson, an English professor who serves as the MUSE director, said the vice president's memoir is an example of "wisdom literature," a genre from the ancient Near East that "was a means of imparting perspective and hope to readers."
Tickets were free to U. students and $10 for members of the public. Biden's speaking fee is listed at $100,000 to $200,000 on the All American Entertainment website.
Although a U. spokeswoman initially said the campus was asked not to disclose his fee as part of his contract, Matheson announced onstage that Biden had agreed to waive his honorarium.
Only about 100 tickets were available to the public because of student interest and the hall was filled. The event was the last on Biden's schedule through the end of the year.
Additional information will be posted throughout the afternoon.