Jill Biden, Back in Her Old Classroom, Tells a Biden Family Story of Love Through Loss
“There are times when I couldn’t imagine how he did it — how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going," Dr. Biden said Tuesday from her old classroom. "But I’ve always understood why he did it ... he does it for you”
Drawing on the Biden family's decades of experience with love through loss, Dr. Jill Biden on Tuesday night addressed the Democratic National Convention in the shadow of a deadly pandemic, asking: "How do you make a broken family whole?"
The former second lady answered the question by retelling how her husband, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, handled the loss of his son Beau. At the same time, she drew a stark contrast between her husband's "compassion" and how, she said, President Donald Trump has neglected his office after the novel coronavirus appeared.
Elsewhere in her speech — intended to position her as the next first lady — Dr. Biden re-introduced herself to voters; her remarks were prefaced by pre-taped segments with the extended Biden family and other lifestyle details such as her penchant for running.
"We just need leadership worthy of our nation ... honest leadership to bring us back together, to recover from this pandemic and prepare for whatever else is next," she said Tuesday, alluding to Trump's sometimes contradictory and dismissive response to the health crisis.
Dr. Biden, 69, also spoke in personal terms, reflecting on the loss of Beau, a former attorney general of Delaware who died in 2015 from brain cancer. (Both Beau and his younger brother, Hunter, survived a car crash when they were small children that killed their mother, the vice president's first wife, and their baby sister.)
The Bidens have described Beau's death five years ago in shattering terms, particularly for the former vice president.
“There are times when I couldn’t imagine how he did it — how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going," Dr. Biden said about her husband, 77. "But I’ve always understood why he did it ... he does it for you.”
Delivering Tuesday's speech from her former classroom at Brandywine High in Wilmington, Delaware, where she was an English teacher, Dr. Biden said her husband "will do for you family what he did for ours" and said he would help lead the country through the coronavirus.
Dr. Biden tied her two themes together — highlighting her husband's "compassion" in times of tragedy while comparing it to Trump's divisive rhetoric throughout the pandemic.
“How do you make a broken family whole?" she asked. "The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding, and with small acts of compassion — with bravery, with unwavering faith.”
The theme of Tuesday night's DNC was "leadership matters," and the former second lady attacked Trump — who has been responding in kind on his Twitter — during her closing address, honing in on his outspoken desire to see children return to classrooms, even if their city or state is still grappling with infections.
"You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways," she said, adding, "There’s no scent of new notebooks or freshly waxed floors. The rooms are dark and the bright young faces that should fill them are confined to boxes on a computer screen.”
As Dr. Biden finished her speech, her husband appeared on screen to embrace her.
Speaking to the camera, Vice President Biden praised his wife and said he would return to the convention again soon — to accept his party's nomination.