As Chief Justice John Roberts shook the hand of President Joe Biden and said “congratulations Mister President”, I let out a huge sigh. For the first time in my adult life, I have a president who has empathy. While some may argue that former President Donald Trump was empathetic, I happen to disagree. As a young disabled woman, I never felt empathy from Trump. However, with Biden as commander in chief, I feel seen and understood in ways that Donald Trump never made me feel.
In late 2015, presidential candidate Donald Trump got on stage at a campaign rally and openly mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter from the New York Times who suffers from arthrogryposis. Shaking his head and flailing his arm, he openly bullied someone like me: a disabled journalist who was trying to do his job and report on the campaign. A few days later, Trump defended his statement, saying that if Kovaleski “is handicapped, I would not know because I do not know what he looks like.” Trump never apologized to Kovaleski or the disabled community. It was at that moment that I knew that Trump lacked the empathy that my community needed.
On the contrary, presidential candidate Joe Biden was seen in 2020 having a conversation with Brayden Harrington, a 13-year-old boy with a stutter. Biden, who also suffered from a stutter in his youth, encouraged Harrington and gave his parents information about speech therapists that Biden had worked with in the past. Biden took time out of his day to sit with the Harrington family and encourage them, regardless of who they were voting for.
Outside of the campaign trail, Biden has consistently been empathetic in his personal and professional life. It is well known that Biden advocates for having bipartisan friendships with other lawmakers. Before his untimely death in 2018, Biden was a close friend of John McCain, his senate colleague and member of the Republican party. They were often on opposite sides of legislation that was being voted on in the 1980s and 1990s. Despite this opposition on the senate floor, Biden and McCain were close friends who were always supportive of each other. On the other hand, the thought of former President Trump having a Democratic best bud seems blasphemous, since Trump spearheaded the extreme divide that has plagued American politics since 2015.
While Joe Biden is not the perfect person, he has shown an immense amount of empathy to those in this country who are oppressed. He has said numerous times that he originally planned to forgo running for president, but the Unite the Right white-supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia was the catalyst for his campaign. While he has continued to display empathy with the numerous executive orders he has signed, one can only hope that he will hold true to this standard and not fall victim to the corruption that has shaken American politics over the past few decades.
Sources: Washington Post, Time