(Originally broadcast on Oct. 23, 2009, on The Frank Show, here.)
Vice President Joe Biden was in town on Thursday. He gave a good speech, not great, but solid. He touched all the right points. The Romanian revolution. The people. Progress. Leadership and the need for it. What this country represents, still, to much of the world. The ability to overcome. To surmount a history and join a world that was missed for decades. Because believe it or not, we Americans do admire Romania and the people here for having survived and persevered. Of course, most of us in the US don’t know the difference between Bucharest and Budapest. God forbid we should try to find either one on a map. But we do pay attention and we find strength in seeing what people elsewhere can overcome.
And though I’m sure it sounds corny, all this got me thinking about Joe Biden himself. I confess, without wanting to sound fawning or naive, that I have often thought of his personal story as an example. Well, just a small example. One of many. But at times of reflection, we all look to images of others, however slight, to illuminate parts of ourselves.
The Vice President was a US Senator from the state where I worked. I knew him. But then again, so did most of the people there. It’s a very small state. The population is less than one-third that of Bucharest. We would have meetings together, sit near each other at restaurants, chat sometimes. I worked with his son.
And I do like him. Almost everyone does. The Vice President is forthright when allowed to be. He is often very funny. He has his faults. Even compared with other politicians, he can talk too much. He’s not always a very good politician, I don’t always agree with him, and he’s been known to stretch the truth, to put it kindly. But he is a good guy, and a good father. I believe he’s honorable. And he has persevered. At 29, he was elected to the US Senate in a very surprising upset. Then just weeks later, his wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident. He considered resigning before even taking office. Twenty years ago, he almost died from a brain aneurism. And in the mid-90s, he confessed in a meeting with a group of us editors that he thought about leaving politics as his party had lost the majority in Congress. And now, there he is. Vice President of the United States.
What does that teach us? Maybe not much. Many of us have had to survive tragedies, persevere through the worst pains of life. But as we do, it consoles and inspires in small ways, I think, to know of others who traversed their own sometimes dark paths and arrived at a green pasture of success. It’s good to have these examples. But it’s most important to set these examples.