I have a special place in my heart for Joe Biden. Yes, I admire his fervor when the former vice president speaks, his strength in living through tragedy and willingness to speak on his pain, and even his often too-truthful, off-the-cuff comments that can get him in trouble. He is a man of passion, a trait that is easy to admire and aspire to. But this week, I, along with millions of Americans, saw another layer of Biden on the talk show The View. He sat alongside the regular female hosts during their opening banter, and he did something that caught me off-guard and ultimately made me emotional. And it was this small gesture that filled me with something I didn’t even realize I was missing. In a time when so much feels unfamiliar, off-center and, at times, shocking, Joe Biden reminded me of an important tool to maintain strength and endurance.
To start, I have to admit my admiration of Biden goes beyond the list of attributes I mentioned above. You see, when my grandfather died in 1999, then-senator Biden addressed Congress to honor my grandfather. In his address (you can find it here) he spoke on my grandfather’s strength of character, his leadership in the Jewish community, his unique ability to unite communities of different religions, his influence in the civil rights movement, and his influence in Biden’s own career. But of all the accolades he bestowed in that speech, what I loved most was when he said, “He was known as the rabbi who speaks.” Yes, my grandfather’s voice was distinctive, deep and raspy, and full of passion. But he also meant that my grandfather was known as the rabbi, the man, who spoke on what was right, what was moral, and what was good. He addressed love, compassion, injustice, and of course, faith. When I reread this speech this week, I realized Biden felt a kinship with my grandfather. Because no matter what we think of his politics, most of us can probably agree that Biden, too, speaks.
Perhaps what happened on The View shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But it took my breath away. In the clip (that you can see here), John McCain’s daughter, Meaghan, started to ask Biden about how he got through the illness and eventual death of his son Beau. As many of you know, John McCain has been diagnosed with the same cancer to which Beau ultimately succumbed. As she asked the question, her eyes filled with tears and her voice began to shake. In that moment, Biden left his seat to sit next to Meaghan and hold her hand. And while she insisted that she didn’t want to make this segment about her, he transformed the moment into something bigger. He insisted she have hope. He backed up this request by citing cutting-edge research in the area of glioblastoma and sharing his belief that a cure is possible. He went on to explain how his son requested his doctor not discuss percentages, but rather focus on next steps. This idea of “next steps” defined, in my view, Biden’s brand of hope. In encouraging Meaghan’s hope, he also asked all of us to have hope, to hold onto hope, no matter what life trials and tribulations we may be experiencing.
I found myself crying at his gesture. How he held her hand and looked in her eyes, and at the same time, how he gracefully honored her request to talk to the audience about how he found strength. He looked at her with compassion and looked at us, America watching, with the same compassion. I was transfixed by his sincerity and his message. I needed some hope, and Joe Biden reminded me of its importance.
After the show aired, I did some research. I wanted to find out how to cultivate hope within me. I understand hope as believing in what is possible. And believing what is possible in the future can help create calm in the present. Hope can be a lifeline in helping us move forward in the face of oppressive hardship or disappointment. In my digging, I found more. I found hope isn’t just positive thinking. Hope inspires action. Research shows that hope propels people into a problem-solving mindset. Problem solving can manifest through personal research, raising awareness or fundraising, creating a plan of action, or simply moving forward with purpose. This mindset lends itself to a “can do” attitude.
Knowing that hope can bring so much to the outcome of a difficult situation, I continued my research to understand how to strengthen the hope that lies within me. I found many studies and papers on the topic. What I found most compelling of all the theories is that hope is linked with fortitude and perseverance. How do we cultivate hope? We believe in the good that may come. And we never let go of that belief. In short, we don’t give up. When we don’t give up, we persevere.
One of the moments that inspired me the most during that television segment was Biden’s ability to explain the state of glioblastoma research. He spoke about the groundbreaking findings with such passion that by the end, I, too, believed in a soon-to-be-found cure for this rare brain cancer. On a scale of 1 to 10, Biden’s hope was at a 9. Most remarkably, although he son didn’t survive this cancer, he still believed. He hasn’t given up—quite the contrary—he has given hope.
This holiday season, seek out hope. Believe in the year ahead and all the opportunities and possibilities ahead of you. If that feels too overwhelming, do as Joe Biden did: help someone else find their hope. You can bolster someone else’s hope by volunteering your time or donating to their cause. Hope truly does beget hope. Find it, share it, and help it multiply.