By Lynn Schenk and Marjorie Margolies
Despite the enormous demands of an impressive political career and the priority he places on family, Joe Biden has always found time for those in need. We can attest to that first-hand. We are two former members of Congress who were elected to the House in 1992, and worked with him. When we needed comforting, he was there for us.
1992 was the “Year of the Woman.” It only lasted for one term. You may remember Newt Gingrich. It was a divisive time…but hardly as divisive as today. Still, Democrats and Republicans were not playing nice in the sandbox back then, either.
There were some folks who were trying to find the sane center. One of them was Sen. Joe Biden. Both of us remember him as a real friend to women and women’s issues. There is much being said about Joe now; some true, some not. This is what we know to be true: Joe Biden is one of the most decent, sincere and empathetic men we have ever come across in our collective decades in politics and government.
As Election Day nears, there’s one candidate who is a crass embarrassment, and one who is a class act. Joe Biden cares for our country, cares for our democracy and cares for the plight of his fellow human beings. Our personal experiences underscore that basic humanity.
Lynn’s story: My late husband, Hugh Friedman, was diagnosed with a deadly cancer. One evening, around 7:30 p.m., the phone rang. Hugh answered it from his bed. I could hear him saying “Oh, hi senator. Yes, senator, etc.” Since I was the politician in the family, I assumed the call was for me. But when I reached for the phone, Hugh said, “No, it’s for me, it’s Sen. Biden.”
The two of them must have talked for the next 45 minutes (it was late back east and Joe was en route to Delaware). Later, Hugh told me that Joe had shared some of his own near-death experience with an aneurysm and given him a pep talk on keeping a positive outlook. To this day, I don’t know how Joe heard about Hugh or what prompted the call, except, that’s just Joe. From his own deep understanding of suffering, he’s always been motivated to relieve it in others.
Marjorie’s story: In 1976, I adopted a child from Vietnam. Holly, half-Vietnamese, half-American, was a survivor…a street child. She more than survived. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She was a writer with an extraordinary sense of humor. She always made everyone laugh! She was married, the mother of two darling boys. She died of cancer at the age of 48.
One day, shortly after her death, I got a call from Joe. He was in the car with his sister, who is a friend of mine…and one terrific person. She said, “Joe wants to talk to you.” I could hear his palpable empathy, his warmth. He told me, “It really never gets better…it somehow gets livable. It leaves an incalculable hole in your heart.” He is right.
Both of us have heard of countless, “Joe calls,” like ours. Yes, he has a demandingly full life — now more than ever — but he never stops making these calls. He says he is strengthened by the conversations. To that we say, “You have no idea what your words meant to us. You define the word ‘strength’.”
Lynn Schenk represented a San Diego district in Congress from 1993 to 1995 and was later Gov. Gray Davis’ chief of staff. Marjorie Margolies represented a suburban district outside Philadelphia during the same years.