“We should be the America that cherishes each other…”

There’s never been any question that I would vote for Joe Biden if he is the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. I’d vote for a ham-salad sandwich if it was running against the current occupant of the Oval Office. But after listening to a speech Biden delivered today in Philadelphia ahead of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, for the first time I feel some genuine enthusiasm for him. He’s a low-key speaker, to be sure. He doesn’t have Obama’s eloquent delivery or Bill Clinton’s charisma. But I like what he said. And I liked the sense of earnestness and empathy in the way he said it. This is a man who gets it… who sees America for what it is and for what it ought to be. He’s not a revolutionary, he’s not promising utopia, but he’s not a cynic either, and I think a Biden administration will be a step in the right direction. Or at least a a step back toward the light:

The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years, a tug of war between the American ideal that we’re all created equal, and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. The honest truth is that both elements are part of the American character, both elements. At our best, the American ideal wins out. But it’s never a rout, it’s always a fight and the battle is never fully won.

… 

“I ask every American, I mean this in the bottom of my heart, ask every American, look at where we are now and think anew. Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we want to pass onto our children and our grandchildren: fear, anger, fingerpointing rather than the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety, self absorption, selfishness? Or do we want to be the America we know we can be? The America we know in our hearts we could be and should be?

“We hunger for liberty the way Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas did. We thirst for the vote like Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and John Lewis did. We strive to explore the stars, cure disease, make an imperfect union more perfect than is been. We may come up short, but at our best, we try.

“My fellow Americans, we’re facing formidable enemies. They include not only the Coronavirus and a terrible impact on the lives and livelihoods, but also the selfishness and fear that have loomed over our national life for the last three years. And I choose those words advisedly, selfishness, and fear. Defeating those enemies requires us to do our duty. And that duty includes remembering who we should be. We should be the America of FDR and Eisenhower, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., of Jonas Salk and Neil Armstrong. We should be the America that cherishes life, liberty, and courage, and above all, we should be the America that cherishes each other. Each and every one of us.”

Each and every one of us. E pluribus unum… out of many, one. That’s my America. And I want it back.

 

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