Vice President Biden is one of the great men in American politics. He’s a man who avoided exploiting his position of power and influence for riches, in a way few would be able to resist.
He’s a man who actually liked the constituents he was elected to represent and nothing made him happier than getting to spend time with them.
He never lost his sense of conviction on the importance of public service being in the best interest of common men and women.
He is warm and jovial, oftentimes his demeanor was detrimental to the public ‘s perception about his level of seriousness. Make no mistake, Uncle Joe is as much of a statesman, as he is friendly and kind.
To be universally well liked and regarded after 30 years in politics is virtually impossible, especially within the most exclusive club in America: the United States Senate.
The elite of elite US legislators and global leaders, whom all refer to him simply as “Joe”, like and respect a man whose father was a used car salesman.
They universally respect the opinions of a man who graduated 506th out of 688 in his class at the University of Delaware, who finished 76 out of 85 students in his law school class at Syracuse, and who overcame a battle with stuttering which lasted into his early 20s by spending hours reciting poetry in the mirror.
His career began after several years unsuccessfully practicing law as a public defender and attorney. So unsuccessfully, he had to hold a second job as a property manager. Yet undeterred by a lack of experience or financial success, a 30 year old Joe Biden decided to run for Senate with no money and his sister as his campaign manager in 1972.
His campaign was comprised of handing out printed flyers listing his positions and talking to each and every voter who would lend him a sympathetic ear.
On November 7, 1972, Joe Biden shocked the political world by becoming the sixth youngest Senator in US history.
On Dec. 18, his wife Neilia, and 1 year old daughter Naomi, were killed in an automobile accident leaving the newly elected Biden to raise his two sons that survived the crash, Beau and Hunter.
Since Biden’s financial situation prevented him from moving his remaining family to DC, he took the Amtrak to his home in the suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware each night. A commute he continued making until becoming Vice President of the United States.
Vice President Biden spent a lifetime opposing war (Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq & Afghanistan), fighting for civil rights, a fight which dates all the way back to his high school days when he organized a sit in at a Wilmington theater, and crafting labor policies that offered stronger employee protections and short term financial/retraining assistance for middle class workers unprepared for the effects of globalization.
Joe feared no man or diplomatic situation. At the age of 31, as the lowest ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, he went on a trip to Moscow and was told to listen and not speak, in the private meeting with Russian officials. Unable to listen to another lie at the meeting, he pointed at a top Russian official and blurted,
“You can’t shit a shitter!”
Just as he feared no man, he never left behind an American willing to work. If someone wanted to work, Joe did everything he could to advocate for that person’s ability to provide for him or herself and their family.
Today was Vice President Biden’s final dayfulfilling his role presiding over the Senate as their Pro-Tempore. While his political days are likely over, his legacy will continue to live on.
A legacy of lessons much needed in our current political climate:
- A person’s political views are never a reason for disliking that individual. Dislike the view, not the person.
- Just because you hold a serious position, doesn’t mean you have to take yourself so seriously that you become self-deluded with importance. In the grand scheme of things, we’re all insignificant. A little self-depreciation goes a long way in building goodwill.
- Even in a job which carries the burden of life and death consequences, never forget to enjoy life and fail to remember that your life spent on Earth is supposed to be fun.
- Lastly, Joe’s most important lesson to us is that America is made up of friends, neighbors, and fellow countrymen first. Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians last. Our differences are far fewer than our commonalities, and it is only through the lens of politics we lose sight of that fact.
Vice President Biden, or Joe as you prefer to be called, your impact was vast and the lessons from your life never forgotten. You are an inspiration to many, and a friend to all that will have you.
Your career serves as proof that ambition and decency do not have to oppose one another.
However your life and legacy serve as the much needed reminder in an increasingly cynical America, that despite the coarsening tone of our discourse by leaders demonizing their opposition, there are well-intentioned, competent, and kind men and women on both sides of the political aisle.
If only by example, you committed a great act of public service. Your country thanks you.