Vice President and TIME 100 honoree Joseph Biden gave a solemn yet rousing speech about the resilience of Americans in the face of terror at the TIME 100 gala on Tuesday night. He commended the “calm,” “no-nonsense response” to help the injured in “carnage and pain” last week.
“We’ve suffered loss, and we’re grieving, but we’re not bending,” Biden said. “I promise you, next year’s marathon will be the biggest, most significant, the most attended marathon in history. That’s who we are. That will happen. That will happen.”
(PHOTOS: Scenes From the TIME 100 Gala)
Just a little over a week after the Boston Marathon bombing killed three and injured more than 180 — and less than a week after an explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant killed 15 and injured more than 200 — Biden and other influential speakers made moving tributes to the American lives lost and took time to acknowledge the TIME 100 honorees who have dedicated their lives to helping people in need. Said Biden:
There’s something that all of us here tonight, I think, the honorees, have in common. No matter how long the odds, the men and women we honor tonight, present company excluded, are people who refuse to yield, refuse to bend, refuse to bend to the pressure of orthodoxy, are unafraid to question conventional wisdom, refuse to be intimidated …
And this list is — is unified by a simple belief that it’s all, it’s all, it’s all about basically not being told it can’t be done … I think most of the people, with notable exceptions on this list, believe that all human beings, all human beings, given a half a chance are inclined to do the right thing. We believe that when the time comes, the vast majority of humanity will do the right thing.
The Vice President wasn’t the only one who left the room in silence. Former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords and her husband astronaut Mark Kelly were originally excited to meet the movie stars on the 2013 TIME 100 list. They told TIME during the cocktail party that they could not wait to sit down to dinner with director Steven Spielberg and Lincoln actor Daniel Day-Lewis. “We just saw the movie, so meeting Daniel Day-Lewis is going to feel like meeting Abraham Lincoln,” Kelly tells TIME.
(VIDEO: On the Red Carpet with Joel Stein)
But when they rose to speak at the event, Kelly and Giffords chose to honor someone less well known. They toasted Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who died in the same shooting that wounded Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan 8., 2011. “It’s amazing to think that you can miss someone you’ve never met,” Kelly said, speaking for both himself and Giffords, founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, which works to reduce gun violence in America.
Discussing first responders’ acts of heroism at the Boston Marathon last week, TIME managing editor Rick Stengel said in his speech, “I was so moved and affected by all the people who ran toward the danger rather than away from it, the helpers, that somebody called them. And when we were — when we are — doing this list, we’re always looking for people who run toward a problem, rather than away from it.”
During the event, Miguel, the R&B singer and TIME 100 honoree, performed “Adorn,” and Christina Aguilera belted out “At Last,” “Beautiful” and “Lady Marmalade.” Aguilera sings so well, “she can sing better than you if she was lying down with a paper bag over her head,” actress Amy Poehler joked when she introduced the pop artist.
Bassem Youssef, who hosts a comedy show in Egypt similar to The Daily Show, raised his glass to Jon Stewart, saying he will continue to “be an inspiration in a completely nonsexual way.” Rand Paul toasted philosopher Henry David Thoreau, a maverick who would “not give his stamp of approval to things he objected to on a moral basis,” while Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer toasted the inspiring TIME 100 entrepreneurs.
Jimmy Kimmel Live host Jimmy Kimmel took a crack at Mayer, saying he was thinking about skipping the TIME 100 gala, “but Marissa Mayer said I had to come in” — poking fun at the CEO, who is known for being a tough executive. Then he toasted Egyptian comedian Youssef. “He risks his life to bring laughter to his country,” he said. “I would just move.” He raised his drink to his “future rival” Jimmy Fallon, a “pain in the ass” who “pushes me to be the best more than anyone else.”
MORE: Meet the 2013 TIME 100