Let Us Be the Nation We Know We Can Be

On+November+7%2C+in+Wilmington+Delaware%2C+President-elect+Joe+Biden+addressed+the+country.+

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

On November 7, in Wilmington Delaware, President-elect Joe Biden addressed the country.

On the night of November 7, in Wilmington, Delaware, Joe Biden addressed the nation for the first time since declaring victory for the Presidency of the United States. With hope in our hearts, and immeasurable excitement, my family and I gathered around the television. It is difficult to articulate the relief and joy felt by us and millions of Americans across the country. It is better described by a feeling — one evident in Van Jones’ tears on CNN, in the millions who took the street in celebration and in people everywhere who saw the possibility of a more equitable, just future.

President-elect Biden reminded us that night, “America has always been shaped by inflection points — by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be… ”

Sixteen years ago, the 2004 Democratic National Convention was in nomination of John Kerry but it belonged to a young state Senator from Illinois. It was just a few years ago that I sat down with my family to watch Barack Obama’s famous keynote address for the very first time. In part, he said, “In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead… I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us.” 

Barack Obama delivering the keynote address at the 2004 Deomcratic National Convention. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Like the millions who witnessed it live, I was mesmerized. President Obama’s words ring just as true today as they did sixteen years ago. He spoke with such passion, with a burning fire for equality. These past four years have been a landmine of political darkness; a haze of gut-wrenching policies and words that should never be uttered by anyone, let alone the President of the United States of America. If only for eighteen minutes, Obama’s articulation of the state of our country and deep conviction for the future reminded me of what hope looks like, of what hope feels like.

At the same time, a Senator from Delaware surely could not have imagined how much his life would change because of (as President Obama himself put it) “the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him too.” 

The former President and Vice President were known for their friendship (some even likening it to a “bromance”) and a partnership uncommon for the office. In his new memoir, A Promised Land, President Obama writes of choosing his running mate. He admitted that the differences between him and Joe Biden could not have been more evident. However, in the end, “What mattered most, though, was what my gut told me — that Joe was decent, honest and loyal. I believed that he cared about ordinary people, and that when things got tough, I could trust him. I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

In 2017, President Barack Obama presented Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Although President Obama’s oratorical gift is unsurpassed, what I witnessed on November 7 was reminiscent of him. In times of crisis and despair, when it seems like there is no more light, we look to our leaders for guidance, support, strength and yes, hope. President Obama has not given up on the promise of this nation, nor has Joe Biden. In fact, they believe that our best days are yet to come. 

I am so very proud to be able to call Joe Biden our President-elect. He respects science, listens to factual evidence and cares deeply about people. He has overcome unimaginable loss and moves through life with admirable compassion and strength. He chose a woman of color, Kamala Harris, as his Vice President and assembled an administration that comes from all walks of life, declaring that everyone deserves a seat at the table and a chance to achieve their dreams. 

He knows that we  bear the weight of the past on our shoulders and that we stand on the crossroads of history — an inflection point. Hope is not to be confused with the idea that the problems we face will automatically be solved with a new administration. The weight of the ravaging pandemic, the devastating injustices of systemic racism and the failure to adequately address climate change is real. However, with that, we also possess the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. Together, with us, Joe Biden is ready to seize the moment and begin tackling the incredibly difficult and important work that lies ahead.

In the words of the next President of the United States of America, “With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with a love of country — and a thirst for justice — let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united. A nation strengthened. A nation healed.” 

Staring at the television screen on that beautiful November night, for the first time in what felt like a very long time, I felt hopeful. After a four year long night, I saw the dawn of the nation I know we can be.