In modern America, political discussion has become taboo among friends and family. The country is engulfed in a sense of division that’s unprecedented in modern political history. The US finds itself weakened on the world stage, and our future seems uncertain. The shadow of Donald Trump and the moral corruption of Washington looms large over the American populace, and the torrent of embarrassments have sunk the country to new lows. It is in this political landscape that former Vice President Joe Biden has written his book Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose and has come to the Anthem to participate in a conversation about grief, national unity, and hope.
Vice President Biden is well-acquainted with hardship. Soon after he was first elected to the Senate to represent the state of Delaware in 1972, his first wife Neilia and one-year-old Naomi died in a car accident. This tragedy was contrasted by incredible political success. Biden served in the Senate for decades, before eventually becoming Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008. Tragedy struck again while Biden was serving as Vice President in 2015, when his son Beau died of brain cancer. Beau had been serving as the Attorney General of Delaware at the time, and was widely considered a favorite for the position of Governor. Beau’s death was incredibly hard on Biden, and prevented him from pursuing a bid for the presidency in 2016. It’s the memory of his son that inspired Biden to write his new book, and Biden’s promise to his son to stay engaged with the world prompted him to tour the nation delivering a message of hope and unity.
Biden’s event was unlike any other political event of recent memory. What distinguished the experience was, in fact, the absence of heavy political discourse. The discussion was moderated by former-Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen, a Republican from Maine, whose presence accentuated the tone of bipartisanship that predominated the event. The conversation was incredibly personal, with Biden candidly discussing the processes of grieving and overcoming incredible personal hardship. For the brief window of time that the talk lasted, Biden ceased to be a prominent political figure, and became human, an average American not unlike the audience to which he was speaking. One key to dealing with loss, Biden said, was the recognition that there would come a day in which the memory of the lost loved one will elicit a smile before tears. The pain of grief never truly goes away, but rather gets spread farther apart.
Biden only turned his attention towards modern politics at the end of the evening, drawing attention to the events of Charlottesville this past summer. The president’s initial refusal to totally condemn the Nazi demonstrators, according to Biden, was a complete moral failure. Biden told of how, during the initial inception of the Black Lives Matter movement, he spoke at the funeral of two slain police officers. The father of one of the officers was incredibly grateful for Biden’s presence, and when his son Beau passed away a few months later, the man and his family drove four hours to pay their respects. The source of our divisions, Biden claims, is a failure to understand one another. The tone Biden concluded the evening on was electrifying, and the audience gave him a standing ovation.
It has been speculated that Biden may run for president in the 2020 elections. While Biden didn’t address these rumors during the event, there was no doubt that the message he carried was inherently presidential. Perhaps more importantly, the night was personal and heartfelt. The audience got a close insight into Joe Biden the man, and it became clear that he is just as admirable and good as his political career would imply. Whether or not Biden decides to run, the American people can still learn a lot from Biden’s constant optimism and hope for the future.