The life of Joe Biden: Never Say Die
By Dr. Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*
We know God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. But nobody has seen God. But if after God, if any human being is considered as the most powerful person in the world, he/she is none other than the President of America. Though there has been controversy surrounding the US election with Republican Party’s nominee and incumbent president Donald Trump not accepting defeat, Democratic Party candidate and former vice president Joe Biden is going to be the new president of America.
There are no definite paths to a post held by only a few men in more than two centuries, but Biden’s is among the most unlikely – even for a man who had aspired to the job for more than three decades, twice running unsuccessfully and passing on a third bid to try to succeed Obama four years ago.
On October 7, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., 77, was elected as the 46th president of the United States, defeating President Donald Trump in an election that played out against the backdrop of a pandemic, its economic outcome, and a national reckoning on racism. He becomes the oldest president-elect and with concomitant a history-making vice president-elect in Kamala Harris, the first Black woman of Indian origin to serve in the nation’s second-highest office.
The life history of his long, distinguished political career has been full of success, and intense heartbreak. His elevation, journey to the most powerful position in the world is arduous, thorny, was never a smooth process. What is worth emulating is his personal life, who climbed from a low background to a top position despite personal life being replete with tribulations and sufferings.
Joe Biden known as Joseph Robinette Biden Jr was born on November 20, 1942, in working-class mining town Scranton, Pennsylvania to a Roman Catholic family. Biden’s father. Joe Biden Sr. was initially wealthy but had suffered several financial setbacks by the time Biden was born. For several years the family lived with Biden’s maternal grandparents.
His father struggled to find work after losing his job as an oil businessman and eventually became a used car salesman to support his wife and Biden’s two brothers and sister. Beginning in 1953, the family lived for several years in an apartment in Claymont, Delaware, then moved to a house in Wilmington, Delaware.
He was not a brilliant scholar. A poor student but a natural leader, he was class president in his junior and senior years. As a child and teenager, he struggled with a stutter (speech impairment) bravely overcoming the affliction through public speaking. It is said Biden improved his speaking power in his early twenties. by reciting poetry before a mirror. He played American football as a freshman in college and is a sports car enthusiast.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965 with a double major in history and political science, and a minor in English. He had a C average and was ranked 506th in his class of 688. In 1968, Biden received a law degree from Syracuse University College of Law, ranked 76th in his class of 85, and was admitted to the Delaware bar in 1969.
The month after being first elected senator in a shock victory in December 18, 1972, Biden’s wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in tragic accident in Hockessin, Delaware. Biden’s sons Beau and Hunter suffered a broken leg and a minor skull fracture, and doctors feared they would never recover. Biden considered resigning to care for them, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield persuaded him not to.
To see his sons every day. Biden commuted by train between his Delaware home and Washington, D.C. — 90 minutes each way — and maintained this habit throughout his 36 years in the Senate. But the accident had filled him with anger and religious doubt. He wrote later that he “felt God had played a horrible trick” on him, and he had trouble focusing on work.
In his autobiography, Biden wrote that he considered suicide before vowing to survive to raise his remaining sons. He wrote: “Most of all I was numb but there were moments, when the pain would cut through like a shard of broken glass.”
Biden credits his second wife, teacher Jill Tracy Jacobs, with the renewal of his interest in politics and life; they met in 1975 on a blind date arranged by Biden’s brother (who had known Jacobs in college) and were married at the United Nations Chapel in New York on June 17, 1977.
They are Roman Catholics and attend Mass at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in Greenville, Delaware. Their daughter Ashley Blazer (born 1981) is a social worker. Beau Biden became an Army Judge Advocate serving in the Iraq War, and later Delaware Attorney General. Unfortunately, he died of brain cancer in 2015. Hunter Biden is a Washington attorney and lobbyist.
In 1968, Biden clerked at a Wilmington law firm headed by prominent local Republican William Prickett and, he was a supporter of Republican. He disliked incumbent Democratic Delaware governor Charles L. Terry’s conservative racial politics and supported a more liberal Republican, Russell W. Peterson, who defeated Terry in 1968. Biden was recruited by local Republicans but registered as an Independent because of his distaste for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
In 1969, Biden practiced law first as a public defender and then at a firm headed by a locally active Democrat who named him to the Democratic Forum, a group trying to reform and revitalize the state party; Biden subsequently reregistered as a Democrat. He and another attorney also formed a law firm. Corporate law, however, did not appeal to him, and criminal law did not pay well. He supplemented his income by managing properties.
He was elected a New Castle County Councillor in 1970, and became the sixth-youngest senator in American history when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware in 1972.
He served on the council, while still practicing law, until 1972.
In 1972, Biden defeated Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs to become the junior U.S. senator from Delaware. He was the only Democrat willing to challenge Bogg. His campaign had almost no money, and he was given no chance of winning. Family members managed and staffed the campaign, which relied on meeting voters face-to-face and hand-distributing position papers.
A few months before the election Biden trailed Boggs by almost thirty percentage points, but his energy, attractive young family, and ability to connect with voters’ emotions worked to his advantage, and he won with 50.5 percent of the vote
A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the United States Senator for Delaware from 1973 to 2009. In 1979, he secured the passage of arms limitation agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union, reducing the risk of global nuclear disaster. He also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, dealing with drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties issues.
In 1994, he sponsored the original Violence Against Women Act leading to a major decline in intimate partner violence, from 2.1 million victims in 1994 to 907,000 in 2010. He also led the effort to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and oversaw six U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, including the contentious hearings for Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.
Biden was re-elected to the Senate six times. Biden was a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and eventually its chairman. He opposed the Gulf War in 1991 but supported expanding the NATO alliance into Eastern Europe and its intervention in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. He supported the resolution authorizing the Iraq War in 2002 but opposed the surge of U.S. troops in 2007.
He first ran for president in 1988 keeping his campaign centrist and vague to appeal to the majority of American voters. But his dream fell apart when he was accused of plagiarising some of his speeches including most famously a debate in Iowa where he lifted large sections of then Labour leader Neil Kinnock’s “1,000 generations” speech.
The Democrat ran for President again in 2008 but failed to get his campaign off his ground against a youthful, charismatic Barack Obama who promptly made him his vice president for two terms. He was the fourth-most senior senator when he resigned to serve as Barack Obama’s vice president after they won the 2008 presidential election; Obama and Biden were re-elected in 2012. In other words, he served as the 47th vice president of the United States in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.
As vice president to Obama, he played a pivotal role in lifting the USA out of the Great Recession in 2008 and helped pass the Affordable Care Act, guaranteeing health coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions and 20 million who were previously uninsured.
He also became a popular meme topic, depicted as a hellraiser compared to Obama’s calm persona, fuelled by his occasional gaffes. It is reported that Obama had relied on Biden’s “knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency”.
He also served as the chair of the foreign relations committee for four years, from 2001 to 2003 and again, first in the position of senator, then vice president from 2007 to 2009. Implemented stricter gun control laws and authored a bill that tried to implement a ban on assault weapons.
As vice president, Biden supervised infrastructure spending in 2009 to counteract the Great Recession. His negotiations with congressional Republicans helped pass legislation including the 2010 Tax Relief Act, which resolved a taxation deadlock; the Budget Control Act of 2011, which resolved a debt ceiling crisis; and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which addressed the impending “fiscal cliff”.
He also led efforts to pass the United States–Russia New START treaty, supported military intervention in Libya, and helped formulate U.S. policy toward Iraq through the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting he led the Gun Violence Task Force. In January 2017, Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction.
His 2020 bid comes four years after he opted against challenging Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic contest so soon after the death of his first son Beau. In April 2019, Biden announced his candidacy in the 2020 presidential election, and he reached the delegate threshold needed to secure the Democratic nomination in June 2020. On August 11, he announced U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate.
Biden has not proved a quality speaker. During the second presidential debate, Biden accidentally referred to far-right militia the Proud Boys as ‘the poor boys’ as he attacked Trump’s record on tackling racism. He also confused his wife with his sister on stage at a rally in California in June.
“By the way, this is my little sister Valerie!” Biden said while grabbing his wife’s right hand. “And I’m Jill’s husband,” he went on while reaching for his sister’s. Biden faced new questions in regards to greeting strangers at political events, with several women coming forward to say he had made them feel uncomfortable. He had apologized and said he recognized standards for personal conduct had evolved in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
We know, the thing does not move the way one desires. It has not happened in God’s life too. But we become too emotional, stressed, depressed, unruly, when anything goes against our desire. But see the tragedy that had fallen on Biden. Despite all these impediments, he faced situations with boldness and became the most powerful person in the world.
Whoever rules are different matters, but the life of Joe Biden is a source of inspiration, an example to emulate by the new generation, and worthy of discussion. His life preaches to us that one is a failure in one area does not mean he/she is a failure in all other areas. Nobody’s life is useless. It is not sheer talent or potentialities but the effort, commitment, dedication, determination also help to reach top position too.
After vanquishing Trump, he is now the most powerful person of the world. The world expects a lot more from him.
The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.