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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Jill Biden recognizes the anxieties of schools reopening amid pandemic

Screenshot from DNC livestream.

Former Second Lady of the United States Jill Biden walked into an empty classroom to begin her speech on the second night of the Democratic National Convention. 

“I have always loved the sounds of a classroom. The quiet that sparks with possibility just before students shuffle in. The murmur of ideas bouncing back and forth as we explore the world together. The laughter and tiny moments of surprise you find in materials you taught a million times,” she said. 

Biden was an English teacher at Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Delaware. She said that the summers that she used to spend preparing for the upcoming school year were very different from this year. 

“This quiet is heavy. You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways. There’s no scent of new notebooks or freshly waxed floors. The rooms are dark (and) the bright young faces that should fill them are now confined to boxes on a computer screen,” she said. 

Biden said she has heard that while parents are frustrated by trying to work while also guiding their children’s learning full time, they are also afraid that their children may become sick from COVID-19 if they are to resume in-person classes.

Just this week, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Notre Dame had to move their in-person classes to an online format as too many students contracted the virus. 

She said the impact of COVID-19 reaches beyond classrooms into other aspects of our society, affecting individuals working without enough protection and increasing pressure on food banks due to lacking food access and increasing deaths. 

“As a mother and a grandmother, as an American, I am heartbroken by the magnitude of this loss. By the failure to protect our communities, by every precious and irreplaceable life gone. Like so many of you, I am left asking, ‘How do I keep my family safe?’,” she said. 

She shared that motherhood came to her in a way that she didn’t expect. 

Biden married former Vice President Joe Biden after his wife and daughter passed away in a car accident, leaving him with two sons to raise. 

“I never imagined, at the age of 26, I would be asking myself, ‘How do you make a broken family whole?’” Jill said. 

Biden said their family figured it out in large events like holidays and sports state championships as well as the small moments like reading together and Sunday dinners. 

“We found that love holds a family together. Love makes us flexible and resilient. It allows us to become more than ourselves, together. And though it can’t protect us from the sorrows of life, it gives us refuge, a home. How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding. And with small acts of kindness. With bravery, with unwavering faith,” Biden said. 

She said she is seeing Americans come together despite apparent divisions.

We’re finding mercy and grace in the moments we might have once taken for granted. We’re seeing that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite. We have shown that the heart of this nation still beats with kindness and courage,” she said. 

Biden said this is the America that her husband is fighting for now. 

She said that four days after their son Beau passed away from cancer, Joe went back to work. 

“That’s just who he is. There are times when I couldn’t imagine how he did it—how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going. But I’ve always understood why he did it,” she said. 

She said Joe fights for everyone.

“For the daughter who convinces her mom to finally get a breast cancer screening and misses work to drive her to the clinic. For the community college student who has faced homelessness and survived abuse — but finds the grit to finish her degree and make a good life for her kids. For the little boy whose mom is serving as a Marine in Iraq, who puts on a brave face in his video call, and doesn’t complain when the only thing he wants for his birthday is to be with her,” she said. 

She said that although classrooms are quiet and empty right now, there is change coming. 

Across the country, educators, parents, first responders—Americans of all walks of life are putting their shoulders back, fighting for each other. We haven’t given up.” 

Biden said that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the leaders the U.S. needs to meet and propel this change as well as to ensure that classrooms will be able to be full of students once again. 

“We just need leadership worthy of our nation. Worthy of you. Honest leadership to bring us back together — to recover from this pandemic and prepare for whatever else is next. Leadership to reimagine what our nation will be.” 

She said that if she has the honor of serving as first lady, she will also serve to make this nation better. 

“The burdens we carry are heavy, and we need someone with strong shoulders. I know that if we entrust this nation to Joe, he will do for your family what he did for ours: bring us together and make us whole,” she said. “Carry us forward in our time of need. Keep the promise of America, for all of us.” 

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