Just a little something to feel good about…
I enjoyed Frank Bruni’s e-newsletter this week, particularly since I hadn’t seen one lately — he’d been away writing a book or some such. I hope he won’t mind if I quote from it fairly extensively. The email was headlined, “The one word that defines Biden’s presidency so far.”
How good it feels to write that! President Joe Biden. We needed a change, and now we have it, and the rightness of this particular one was captured not just in his excellent inauguration speech but also in other words and gestures of his in the hours just before and after that address.
I’ll focus on three unscripted sentences shortly after 5 p.m., when a small group of journalists were on hand for his signing of several executive orders in the Oval Office. One of them asked about the content of a letter that President Donald Trump — who actually followed tradition in this instance — left Biden. There’d been doubt that Trump would do so.
“The president wrote a very generous letter,” Biden said. “Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous.”
Generous. The word grabbed me, and not because Biden used it twice.
For starters, “generous” perfectly describes Biden’s response to the question he was asked.
He could simply have declined to characterize the letter, citing etiquette and discretion. He certainly wasn’t under any obligation to compliment and essentially thank Trump, not after Trump refused to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s election, spread conspiracy theories and fomented violence. Trump was intent on making Biden’s transition into the presidency as rocky as possible and bequeathing him a country almost impossible to govern.
Biden nonetheless went out of his way to be big. To be kind. He placed Trump, of all people, in proximity to “generous,” when our former president (it feels good to write that phrase, too!) is anything but.
Ever since Election Day, Biden hasn’t merely been urging civility. He’s been modeling it, despite a magnitude of ugliness and absurdity from Trump and his Republican enablers that has tested it at every turn. It’s a monumental feat of discipline. It’s the epitome of grace.
And it’s the definition of, well, generosity, which is as good a one-word summary of what America and Americans need right now as any other. We need it from our president. We need it from other political leaders. We need it most of all from ourselves….
It’s small things like that that, if we pay attention, can remind us of how blessed were are in this country now.
Others can talk about policies or programs or whatever interests them. For me, this sort of thing is why I wanted Joe Biden to be our president. Because we really, really need this…