In Defense of Joe Biden: A Hug When I Needed One
At age 33, I had been a life-long Republican. I worked for, what many might describe as the “dark side and/or Darth Vaders of politics”, including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin. I was conservative in my upbringing, values, and beliefs. I stayed true to those feelings yet still found myself drawn to Joe Biden. Our affable, blunder-prone, yet seemingly oh-so-real Vice President.
In March 2016, my beloved father was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer, glioblastoma. The outlook was dismal. There was not much hope. However, I remembered hearing that VP Biden’s son Beau had had the same diagnosis. I researched his case a little bit and my new, cancer-fighting, mantra became: “Dad — if Beau Biden can be Attorney General of Delaware while fighting this disease, you can get out of bed and tie your shoes today”. And, more so, the comparison became personal with my own mantra becoming: “Jeannie — if Joe Biden can cope with this diagnosis of a loved one while also fulfilling his duties as Vice President…..you, too can get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other today”. There was hope. And a shared journey. He was a hero of sorts. Politics didn’t matter. This was real life.
Unfortunately, Beau lost his battle in May of 2015 and my father in April of 2017. While the grief and sadness was overwhelming, I still felt a bond to Vice President Biden. I read his book “Promise Me, Dad” with bleary eyes but a keen recognition for the similar battles we had been through. Him the Vice President of the United States, me a 30-something year old single girl and only child from Montana.
Fast forward to March of 2018 (while not trying to draw attention to my own personal sob-story) my dear mother was dying of Alzheimers. She passed on March 5th of that year. Coincidentally, Vice President Biden would be in my small hometown of Helena, Montana five days later to headline various Democratic Party events. I needed to meet this man, my hero….my idol and companion, through cancer and heartbreak.
I was anxious, sad, and seriously swollen with emotion but was able to get a chance to meet the Vice President. Many of the local Democrats remarked “what are YOU doing here?” when I showed up in line at his photo opportunity. I explained my affection for VP Biden because of what I had been through, and no one blinked an eye, everyone understood. He was a good man. No matter your party.
When my turn came up to have my brief meet-and-greet and photo taken with Vice President Biden, I was nervous. Why AM I here?? But immediately, he knew my story (his staff had briefed him) and he brought me in for a long, big hug. It was exactly what I needed. We discussed Beau and my father. We talked about the recent loss of my mother — he understood family tragedy. He was close, nose to nose at times and hand in hand, but it was in that personal touch that I KNEW he was a human. Not a Vice President, or a politician, or someone that was giving a speech later that night. He was a real person, who had been through real things. Just like me. We must’ve talked for five minutes — far more than the paying Democrat contributors got! — but it was so genuine, no one would complain. Especially Mr. Biden, communicating and comparing stories with me was clearly a highlight for him amidst his political duties. I left with a giant smile on my face, the first in days, and was uplifted for a long time after. I met my hero, and he was exactly what I had expected him to be.
My point in telling this story is that, while Vice President Biden has a very personal and affectionate way about him, it is only because he loves people. He loves people’s stories. Man, woman, child. Father, mother, son, daughter, spouse. He knows people are hurting and can relate and offer genuine support. And human touch is the most basic form of relaying that. There is no ulterior motive — he just wants to get close to everyone. Because he cares about their stories. And is human. And THAT is what matters most and crosses all party lines.