In his first prime-time address to commemorate the one year anniversary of the pandemic, Biden started off with the all-too familiar observation that the world stopped, that feeling of demarcation between the 'before time' and the plague year:
Good evening my fellow Americans. Tonight, I'd like to talk to you about where we are as we mark one year since everything stopped because of this pandemic. A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked, denials for days, weeks, then months.
That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness. Photos and videos from 2019 feel like they were taken in another era. The last vacation, the last birthday with friends, the last holiday with extended family.
This really hit home. He acknowledged the sorrow that permeated everyday life, then found reason to be optimistic (here's where I repeat my assertion that Biden embodies this quote from Tolkien: "His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.")
While it was different for everyone, we all lost something -- a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice, a year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us. But in the loss, we saw how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect, and gratitude. Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do.
In fact, it may be the most American thing we do. And that's what we've done. We've seen frontline and essential workers risking their lives, sometimes losing them, to save and help others. Researchers and scientists racing for a vaccine. And so many of you, as Hemingway wrote, "Being strong in all the broken places."
Could you imagine the former guy quoting Hemingway? Also, Joe Biden made sure to give accolades to the common working people who have kept our society running during this crisis. I can't imagine the former guy, who sees everything in transactional terms, expressing his gratitude to anyone, let alone a bunch of peasants. With his talk of 'American carnage' back in the not-so-bad days back in 2016, the former guy found darkness in the light.
When Biden speaks about emotional matters, he speaks with authenticity. He incorporated personal tales of his father losing his job. He spoke about the loss of those social rituals which were made impossible by the pandemic, as he put it:
It's the details of life that matter the most, and we miss those details, the big details and the small moments, weddings, birthdays, graduations, all of the things that needed to happen but didn't.
The president also called for unity, and condemned the worrying trend of attacks against Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent:
The things we used to do that always filled us with joy have become things we couldn't do and broke our hearts. Too often, we've turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives, sometimes it divides us. States pitted against one another instead of working with each other. Vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated.
At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, they're on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives, and still, still, they are forced to live in fear for their lives, just walking down streets in America. It's wrong, it's un-American, and it must stop.
President Biden exhorted Americans to pull together, and committed himself to telling the truth to the American people (no deception to avoid panic, because he trusts us) :
Look, we know what we need to do to beat this virus. Tell the truth. Follow the scientists and the science. Work together. Put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function, which is protecting the American people. No function more important. We need to remember the government isn't some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it's us. All of us. We, the people.
For you and I, that America thrives when we give our hearts, when we turn our hands to common purpose. And right now, my friends, we're doing just that. And I have to say, as your president, I am grateful to you. Last summer, I was in Philadelphia, and I met a small business owner, a woman. I asked her, I said, "what do you need most?" I will never forget what she said to me. She said, looking me in the eye, and she said, "I just want the truth. The truth. Just tell me the truth."
President Biden went on to detail his plan to get Americans vaccinated, and to get children back in school. He's taking the 'war on the virus' seriously, and he urged all Americans to join the war effort:
But I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that's not hyperbole. I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and when you can find an opportunity. And to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well.
It was a relief to hear a speech from a man who has promised 'no malarkey'. President Biden hit the proper emotional notes, he refrained from blaming others for the current sorry state of the nation, he articulated actual policy goals, and he called upon what President Lincoln termed 'the better angels of our nature'. Once again, Joe Biden has shown that he is the right person for the Herculean task of cleaning out the Augean stables that the former guy's maladministration left him with. If you haven't seen the speech, it's a welcome return to an era in which government competence is valued:
And to think that Republicans are trying to claim that this man is senile...