I watched the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris this morning. Glued to my t.v., I wanted to see as much as possible so I put my phone aside. Joseph Biden. Kamala Harris. Biden’s Inaugural Address came from his heart and spoke with sincerity and true patriotism about the promise that this country was founded upon. That promise, after over 200 years, still has not been realized in totality. But this morning, after listening to Biden’s speech, after watching Kamala Harris being sworn into the office of the Vice President by a Latina Supreme Court Justice, I felt Hope! For the first time in many years, I felt Hope.
I am not religious. I am not Catholic, nor am I Christian. (My over-all experience with Christians has been horrific, not just for me but for my family.) But as I listened to Joe Biden, and as I remembered all that I have learned of him over many years, I considered a possibility that just a few years ago I would have considered improbable. Biden’s deep, all-embracing faith is the foundation of his life – his principles, his reasoning, and the base of his actions. He has always appeared kind, considerate, genuine, and thoughtful if not always socially graceful. Gifted and genuine. A man of God.
When I was 17, I spent three weeks working with seasonal workers in the Yakima Valley of Washington state. They asked us to paint their beloved church, to repair some walkways to the church, and to do some gardening and landscaping around the lovely, small building. Why? They were busy in the fields – dawn to dusk – but their church was the center of their lives. No time to do repairs. We were happy to help despite our self-conscious, insecure, shy teen selves. We made mistakes and felt like idiots. But they appreciated our efforts, our small successes, and treated us like loved family members. A deeply religious community of people who traveled from (huge) farm to farm just to live. Just to survive. One of the most vivid memories I have is of picketing outside a large chain grocery store in that valley to bring attention to the conditions that seasonal farm workers experienced daily. Most shoppers ignored us, but one middle-aged couple stopped to talk to our group before entering the store, and asked us “What’s the problem?” We explained what we were trying to accomplish and explained that the grapes being sold in the store were representative of the inequity and poor working conditions we were protesting. The couple entered the store to shop and returned shortly with their bags of groceries. They then stood in front of our group, reached into a paper bag, took out a bunch of grapes, and began to throw grapes at us. They laughed. We were silent. When the couple tired of teasing us (and ran out of grapes), they turned and walked away.
When I read today that Biden fired Peter Robb, trump’s National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel, I cried with joy. And cried with exhaustion, elation, and relief. Also today, Biden fired Michael Pack (head of US Agency for Global Media), and Kathleen Kraninger (director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Lots of tears of joy and relief today. And I wondered– is this really the beginning of true, substantial change? Has the United States of America really taken a strong, confident step towards the promise written into our constitution and away from corruption? I believe so. I hope I am right.
President Biden isn’t perfect. By no means is he without flaws. But unless I am completely and thoroughly wrong, he is the person we need Right Now. He is as close to perfect for the times as anyone I can think of – experience, compassion, thoughtful, pragmatic, and open to change. President Biden and Vice President Harris will need our help to rebuild this country. The past four – five years have been horrendous. They are over for most of us but not for all. Those who don’t support these changes will need our help in understanding this promise, also. Now we are asked to move forward, to act upon the ideals contained within the poem “The Hill We Climb”, written by Amanda Gorman. The ideals contained within Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Speech. The ideals that Barack Obama spoke of in his inaugural address. These ideals, Biden spoke of this morning. Hope is painful, encouraging, frightening, and inspirational. But more than all that, more than any description I can think of, hope is courageous. We can do this.
I wish you faith, strength, hope, and courage.