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What a Biden Candidacy Can Bring to Our Country

by on March 21, 2019 5:00 AM

The 2020 presidential campaign has started the exhausting parade of candidates, pundits and advisers marching us through town hall meetings, debates and “defining moments.” While there is already a diverse array of Democrats running, one undeclared heavyweight looms over the field.

While this is not an endorsement per se, it is time for Joe Biden to get into the race.

Agree with him or not, win or lose in this race, Joe Biden has a lot to share that in many ways is what America needs right now. Certainly the protest voices of social justice warriors and proponents of identity politics will argue that he is just another white guy.

But if we must not judge some people by their identity, we should extend that courtesy to all people.

Biden comes at things with the idea that empathy is a good thing; that opening our eyes and ears can teach us to appreciate and understand each other. That goes beyond the narrow politics of identity. He wants to ease the plight of others with healing solutions to make America a better place for all.

While we may differ in race or faith or who we choose to love, that should not preclude us from being allies in securing our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We can pursue these goals in harmony with the wisdom to know that we all have to give to this country. Our rights are not a finite commodity that we must fight over like some vicious zero-sum competition.

Surely some will unfairly try to hold Biden’s experience against him. We’ve come to love the blank canvas candidates with no past mistakes to hold up as a disqualifying factor. But Biden and other veteran politicians face a history of votes or statements to endlessly scrutinize. Opinions expressed 10 or 20 or even 30 years ago are minted as somehow final, denying the likelihood that people evolve their views over time. But in dismissing veteran candidates because of the past, we throw away wisdom grown through the ultimate teacher of experience.  

Through his experience, Biden comes from a place of sunny optimism, of faith in tomorrow, but tempered with the realism that every day is a challenge. He knows America needs solutions based on deeper deliberation beyond rehearsed talking points. And we know that he is not afraid to stray from a script.

Biden legislated with friends and colleagues across the aisle, looking to solve problems rather than embarrass others. That approach allows the needed trust to develop across parties. Neither side gets its way all the time, nor should it. We must reject the two extremes of petulant children stomping their feet while we fall further behind in building the future.

Biden is also the example of fighting on, the antidote to a society trading in the currency of victimhood. Somewhere we lost the idea that adversity, setbacks and even oppression were things to fight through, to battle to overcome. We lost the value we assigned to the noble quest for the new dawn of hope.

After Biden suffered personal tragedy, losing a young daughter and wife, he found the resilience to soldier on. Years later he would have to bury his son Beau, who lost his fight with cancer. He has also suffered setbacks in his political career.

Yet he’s refused to be defined by loss or stumbles. He has always been about the fight, he has always been about what my father taught me: When you get knocked down you should be thinking about getting up before you even hit the ground.

And in a poignant moment on a public stage, Joe Biden had the strength of character to admit battling the demons of hopelessness in his quest to carry on.

That moment was an example of a man who does not fear admitting mistakes and imperfections, a hallmark of true leadership. We need that in a nation where we often clothe ourselves in the righteous illusion that we are perfect, undefeated in every endeavor, while pointing at the other side seeking total surrender.

A few years ago, Joe Biden spoke to me about my father’s death and shared lessons from his own life’s fights. He told me to keep fighting, to keep the faith, and to keep getting up with a purpose to defend that which I knew to be true. That spoke volumes to me and still does.

Joe Biden may or may not jump into it, but the United States is a better nation with him in the 2020 presidential race. His life and career, while imperfect, have been an example of what we can be and an example of the fight we can all have within us. Just having him in the game elevates the game for all.

State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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