We might more immediately associate the word “learning” with the new First Lady. The amazing Dr. Jill Biden is a community college professor by profession who will, admirably, continue to teach during her tenure as First Lady. She has taught many students English in her classroom. This is something she did even while Second Lady, and it shows her commitment to education and having a life outside her public role. Dr. Biden worked hard for her career, raising a daughter and two stepchildren (who are really her own children, as their mother tragically died in a car accident), getting two master’s degrees, and then finally her doctorate in education. However, there are a number of lessons we can learn from Joseph R. Biden, the newly-inaugurated 46th President of the United States, who is thankfully working fiercely to amend all the damage done by Donald Trump.
Initially, the thought of Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate seemed groan-worthy, unappealing, lacking in charisma, and too moderate a Democrat for my taste. President Biden is not as whip-smart as Rhodes Scholar President Clinton. He is not as eloquent as law professor President Barack Obama. Nor does he have the movie-star charisma of demagogue President Reagan. He is not an artist like President George W. Bush, a right-brained, charming man who was put up as an incompetent puppet for his family’s legacy in politics and for Dick Cheney. However, Biden has many qualities of his own, traits that are extremely necessary given the socio-political situation America is in.
First, in his personal life, he is a man of extraordinary character. He has experienced the losses of his young wife and baby daughter, was a single father who commuted between Delaware and Washington every day in order to have dinner with his sons. He has experienced the death of a child who was only early-middle-aged. he had to overcome a stutter and did it so well that he was able to develop a successful career in politics – a field in which public speaking is obligatory and fundamental. He chose an intelligent, maternal, yet career-minded woman as his second wife, and he has respected her decision to work through his vice presidency and through his presidency. Biden has suffered numerous political defeats, and yet he persevered, becoming the oldest President of the United States.
Second, he is a man who has made many mistakes, but he has learned from them. Whether not supporting Anita Hill or school integration, Biden has repeatedly shown that he is human enough to err; however, one must be willing to move ahead and adopt new actions and mindsets that concur with the current political situation. So the lesson is that we are going to flub up, but what matters more is that we get back on the horse and learn how to ride better. This is an especially difficult thing to do in politics, where one is under the scrutiny of the public eye, now more so than ever due to the Internet and social media 24/7. Yes, one can take a skeptical point of view and say that Biden has only choose to correct himself in order to advance his career. That could very well be true. But given Biden’s decades-long career and good reputation in Washington, there suggests a sincerity to his willingness to change. For a man of his generation, a proverbial “old white male from Washington,” to choose a minority woman as his running mate shows that he does not want to remain stale. Again, skeptics could say that it was only a strategic political decision, to choose a woman to appeal to all the Hillary-supporters, women, people of color, etc. etc. Those things are true and necessary to winning an election. Fundamentally, though, if Biden did not think he could work well with Harris, he could not have chosen her.
Third, Biden is a team player. He gets along so well with people on the other side of the aisle that even Republicans like Cindy McCain publicly came out in support of him. Kamala Harris rightly attacked him during the Democratic Party presidential debates, but he was still able to tap her for a running mate. Biden is able to see the big picture, and knows who to call on for Cabinet positions. It is a welcome relief to hear the accomplished biographies of his candidates, qualified people in different fields and a very diverse group of individuals. He is wise enough to know it is not all about him: it is about creating an efficient administration of which he happens to be the head. He is aware of the grave danger of the pandemic, the economy, and America’s tarnished reputation in the world. Naturally, we don’t know the end results of his presidency, and how the next four years will turn out. We could be riding on many false expectations, and the far-right-wing threat could still continue to be a menace that impedes progress. Biden may not deliver, he may make more mistakes in the future.
Yet it doesn’t hurt to have hope, and learning how to get along with the enemy, so to speak, is perhaps one of the most important skills we all need to develop or strengthen now.