I choked up.
If not, you should have done.
Joe Biden just made the greatest speech of his life and one of the most important political speeches that I’ve ever heard.
And frankly, if you didn’t find it emotional, you weren’t listening hard enough, or fully comprehending the significance of what he was saying.
Or ironically, in the moment I lost it, what he wasn’t saying.
When Biden asked for a few moments of respectful silence and prayer for the 400,000 Americans who’ve lost their lives to coronavirus, it was the first time I’ve seen the President of the United States show those victims and their grieving families a shred of real empathy.
And it came from a man who knows so much about the tragedy of losing a loved one. A man whose first wife and baby daughter were killed in a car crash as he was about to become a Senator. A man who suffered another devastating, crushing blow when his beloved son Beau died from brain cancer in 2015.
A man who’s had to bury two of his own children.
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Joe Biden just made the greatest speech of his life and one of the most important political speeches that I’ve ever heard
When Biden asked for a few moments of respectful silence and prayer for the 400,000 Americans who’ve lost their lives to coronavirus, it was the first time I’ve seen the President of the United States show those victims and their grieving families a shred of real empathy. Pictured above: The ‘Field of Flags’ and the U.S. Capitol building on inauguration day
Joe Biden understands what death means, and the appalling toll it takes on families. He’s been there, mourned there and stood by the gravesides.
I remember how he comforted the parents whose kids were slain in the Sandy Hook massacre. His words, his hugs, and his tears were all so very real because he was coming from a place of deep agonising personal experience.
So, when he called for that silence today and bowed his head in prayer, he stepped up to repair the appalling damage done by his predecessor Donald Trump who never gave a stuff about what the virus was doing to Americans but only cared about what it was doing to his chances of re-election.
Biden was putting his arms around grief-stricken America and saying: ‘I hear you, I’m here for you and I know what you’re going through.’
It was spell-blindingly authentic and convincing because we all know he does.
Crucially, his arms also extended to those who hate his guts; the kind of people who feel so enraged by his election victory that they stormed the US Capitol two weeks ago in a violent insurrection at the behest of their spiritual leader Trump to ‘STOP THE STEAL!’
Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden kiss after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States
Jill and Hunter Biden, hug President Joe Biden after being sworn in during his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States
These Americans loathe and detest everything Biden stands for, or rather, they’ve been brain-washed to think that way with a constant diet of lies and disinformation.
Biden knows there’s nothing United about the United States right now.
In fact, the country’s become as disunited as at any time since the Civil War, prompting Biden to say it’s time to end the ‘UN-civil war’ now raging between Americans.
And he beseeched everyone to stop screaming at each other, to cease the increasingly self-harming partisan fighting and come together to join him in the cause of fixing the nation.
Biden was remarkably eloquent for a man who’s suffered from a chronic stammer throughout his 78 years.
It was the speech of a man who knew he’d reached a personal moment of destiny, a moment he had dreamed of and worked towards for five decades.
It was also the speech of an inherently good, decent man.
You can dislike Biden’s policies, but you can’t dislike Biden the person or his humanity.
Biden delivers his speech after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
The longer he spoke, the more hopeful I became about his ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve the unity he wants for the country he loves and has dedicated so much of his life to serve.
His humble, gracious, grateful tone was such a contrast to Trump’s aggressive, combative, pugilistic and often downright offensive rhetoric.
It was a classy presidential address because Biden’s a classy guy.
A savvy one too.
I’m under no illusion about the scale of the challenge he now faces, but I don’t think he is either.
Biden’s a smart, canny political animal.
He knows the deal.
He knows that while Trump may have lost, he still got 75 million votes, the second highest in US election history and ten million more than he got first time round. And he knows that the people who voted for Trump don’t share the current outpouring of emotional joy everyone else is feeling.
They’re spitting blood about it, and as we’ve seen, some are prepared to spill blood about it.
That’s why I thought this was such a clever speech.
It reminded me of Nelson Mandela’s inaugural address when he became South Africa’s first black president; the emphasis wasn’t on any sense of gloating or crude inflammatory celebration of victory, but on unity and conciliation, reaching out to ‘the other side’ and on bringing the broken nation back together.
It was particularly poignant given that Biden was standing on the very steps where American citizens had attacked the heart of democracy just 14 days ago in one of the country’s darkest moments.
‘Democracy has prevailed,’ he said, and it really felt like it.
Donald Trump, who fled the White House in repulsively graceless shame this morning, tried to destroy democracy with his rabble-rousing lies and disgraceful refusal to accept the result of the election.
But he failed.
And Joe Biden’s now the 46th President of the United States, on a mission to do what Trump couldn’t do – and genuinely make America great again.
That greatness can’t be achieved through yet more division.
‘To overcome these challenges,’ Biden said, ‘to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos.’
He’s so right.
Biden is a wise old man who just gets it.
‘Look,’ he said, in what I thought was the most powerful part of his whole address, ‘I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand that, like my dad, they lay awake in bed at night, staring at the ceiling wondering ‘Can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage?’ Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise, I get it. But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you, or worship the way you do, or don’t get the news from the same sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we showed a little tolerance and humility, if we stand in the other person’s shoes — as my mom used to say — just for a moment.’
I wanted to punch the air at this point.
Biden, renowned as one of the great dealmakers in Washington with many Republican friends, had identified the real problem – a total societal breakdown in conventional democratic discourse, and the loss of willingness to debate with people who have different opinions without wanting to attack, silence or cancel them.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden stand with members of the Biden family during his Presidential Inauguration
I’ve just written a whole book about this entitled Wake Up.
Well, ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden just made a dramatic and passionate clarion call for America to wake up.
It was an astonishingly powerful and heartfelt speech, exhilarating in the calm inspiring steel of its content and delivery.
At a time when America needs it most, a benevolent silver-haired knight in shining armour has arrived to get the country back on its feet again.
It won’t be easy.
In truth, it will be very, very hard.
But what a start Joe Biden made today.
This was the speech of a real President at a time of real crisis, not a narcissistic billionaire tycoon who thinks the job is same as hosting a reality TV show.
Good luck Joe – and thank you… the world is breathing a little more calmly tonight.