Joe Biden Inspires


Clarion photo Georgia Baker

By Jennifer Singh, Reporter

Cleveland students had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down and hear one of America’s most influential leaders talk about love, loss, and politics.

On Nov. 30, students from Alex Gordin’s junior IB English class rode downtown together to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall to listen to what former Vice President Joe Biden had to say about his recent memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” published on Nov. 14, 2017.

The memoir discusses the recent loss of his son, Beau Biden, his decision to not run for the 2016 presidential election, and the work he pursued while in office alongside President Barack Obama. However, the event was not so much a speech, as it was a conversation straight from the heart. The format of the event was as an interview, where Kim Malek, owner of the popular ice cream shop Salt and Straw, asked personal questions, putting Biden on the spot.

“The thing that struck me most about the whole event was that he was so open and vulnerable,” junior Mirabella Miller explained. “To see a super powerful man in politics, not surrounded by secret service, not getting cameras flashing: him just sitting there and being vulnerable and talking about probably one of the most traumatic events of his life, the death of his son, was really, really awesome. He just seems so compassionate.”

Students were also touched by the way he specifically reached out to the high school students present in the audience, explaining his optimism for the future and the power youth have.

“At the end he was talking about how we’re in a position of power and we can do whatever we want to do if we all get behind it,” junior Sophie Weir described. “He was trying to encourage everyone to see that power that we hold, even though it seems like there’s not much we can do to make the world a better place. He said [people in the United States] are some of the most educated people and are really privileged, so we should take advantage of that.”

Biden encouraged students to take control of their education and to take advantage of the opportunities so many have before them. Many students took that to heart.

Junior Anna Hawking described a quote spoken from Biden at the event: “The penalty good people pay for not being involved in politics is being governed by people worse than themselves.” “What he wanted to pass on to the high school students is to get involved, and don’t think that you don’t have power because you’re one person,” she said.

“It kind of renewed my gratefulness for my education,” Miller said. “I have so many opportunities that are coming with my future to make a tangible change, and making a change doesn’t have to be running for president. It could be like serving on city council. It could be becoming a lawyer. It could be being a teacher. There’s such a broad range of opportunities open to us as youth, and we’re at this point that we can choose whatever path we want to make the world a better place.”

Just being able to hear from such an influential role model motivated students in multiple ways, and the admiration for Biden only grew.

“I want to be a lawyer and politician when I grow up,” junior Olivia Sheen explained. “That’s something I’ve really wanted to do, and so, you know, getting to hear someone, a politician that I really admire kind of just added fuel to the fire and drive that I have to pursue that.”

It is one thing for students to sit down and read his memoir, but another to hear his words come alive and from his direct perspective.

“I think seeing someone in person is always different,” junior Alex Weiler described. “I think that’s why people go to concerts and why people go to speeches is because there’s a different level of motivation when you see someone speak and someone takes the time to be in person like that. It made me have more faith in politics, for better or worse.”

The opportunity to sit down before Joe Biden was a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of these juniors. His vulnerability to speak about his personal life and his insight to politics was inspirational and important to hear. Cleveland students now look forward to the future keeping Biden’s words of encouragement in the back of their mind.