I’ve seen Beau Biden in person twice. Shortly after his father Joe Biden had been sworn in as our senator, Beau and his brother Hunter appeared on stage with his father at Concord High School in north Wilmington to talk to a full assembly. Beau was wearing a cast.
I shared that first memory with Attorney General Beau Biden in January 2010, when he visited and spoke before a Delaware 4-H Volunteer recognition event. I added that my father also knew his grandfather, Joe Biden Sr., fairly well. My father had a frequent need for Chevy plumbing trucks and a particular weakness for Corvettes, so he found himself often at Colonial Chevrolet at 40th and Market Streets in Wilmington, where the elder Biden was the sales manager. In Delaware, we play a version of the Kevin Bacon game in degrees of two.
My little asides of conversation were not really needed to break the ice. Beau Biden, was, as has been reported, down-to-earth and accessible. He appeared not to have any entourage or “handlers” and he walked around the lobby of the school that hosted our event, freely, shaking hands and talking with 4-H volunteers, Extension staff and teen 4-H members.
He praised the 4-H volunteers, known as leaders, who dedicate years, even lifetimes, to working with children in the First State. Biden felt an affinity with them. He lauded the gathering of about 140 for their positive impact on Delaware youth. He recalled his adventures at the Delaware State Fair, being carried in a peach basket. He seemed to relish shaking hands, talking with people about their service, sharing memories over coffee, posing for countless pictures. His broad Biden smile never waned.
He seemed glad to be there. Really glad.
In retrospect, I think he was as thrilled about our company as much as we were of his. For, in meeting people who work with children, the contrasts couldn’t have been more clearly drawn.
Beau Biden had the unfortunate opportunity to see the ugliest side of human nature. The sick, violation-of-trust side – an inconceivable betrayal of a pediatrician placed in a position to care for a child. Children. Certainly, his eyes had seen the monstrous evidence that we only read about, later, in the most general terms.
As I pursued my small talk, I asked about another topic everyone was talking about—whether he would run for Senate in 2012. Maybe if I was lucky, I’d get a big scoop!
His big smile went away. He was pensive, and with a slow, deliberate shaking of his head, either said, “I am not sure,” or “I don’t know.” I don’t recall the exact words. I got the impression at the time, the run for the Senate was no sure thing. There was no ego. No asking, like any other politician might, “Think I should?”
Instead, I received a glimpse of the weight he had carried and witnessed. Something bigger than politics took priority in his life. From what I have read since about the man, his moral compass ran high.
Upon reflection, it made sense to me why he wanted to hang around with the 4-H volunteers. He needed our stories. Our collective celebrations and traditions helped reinforce the prevailing good he knew and needed to know again that existed in human nature, and counter the one dark, monstrous soul had who done it so wrong.
Thank you Beau Biden for your support, for staying the course and doing what was right.
All photos by Michele Walfred