'Kiddo, you got to get involved:' Joe Biden comes to Newark to debut memoir

NEWARK -- He shared the pain of losing his son to brain cancer.

He talked about awe of working with the brightest person he's ever known -- the first black president of the United States. 

And he echoed the words of his late Irish-Catholic mother: "Don't think you are so special that somehow you are immune from all the things that happen in life."

Former Vice President Joe Biden came to Newark Tuesday to speak about his new memoir, "Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose," which narrates his journey through grief and a historic White House administration.

"Hope really, really matters but you don't know where to look for it; you don't know whether it's ever going to come," said Biden, speaking at Audible headquarters to a roomful of employees and high school interns. "Even though it's a year later, you feel just as down as the day you got the news. There is a way through it and the way to get through it is with a sense of purpose, to begin to do something that matters."

His memoir was released Tuesday. The audiobook, produced by Audible and narrated by Biden, is also available for download.

"It gave hope to us," said Lynn Yeboah, 16, a junior at North Star Academy. "For a politician to tell us that we can make it, we can do whatever we put our mind to, is really good for us as people of color and a lot of women in the room."

Biden spoke with ease for more than an hour, weaving in and out of stories about his parents, his kids and the time he told Russian President Vladimir Putin he "had no soul."

"He did not take it as an insult," Biden said, "He said, 'We understand one another.' That's a long way to get to the short answer which is there's still an ability to work with someone who is not from our value set."

Biden, often called "middle-class Joe," spoke candidly about his working class upbringing and his family's emphasis on integrity and respect. He said his book was meant to tell the world about his remarkable son, Beau, but more importantly, to bring people who have loved and lost, some hope.

"When you are the recipient of empathy, you know how important it is," he said. "You have an obligation to return it."

For the high schoolers who heard Biden's message, they said they were surprised by how deeply personal his stories were. 

"He opened up and we saw a different side of him," said Micaela Generali, 17, of Science Park High. "I'm Hispanic and a lot of people would think, 'Oh you don't relate with a politician white guy,' but honestly I did relate with him, I really did."

Generali was one of 30 high school interns from North Star and Science Park High School in Newark who sat in on the former vice president's talk and were able to shake his hand and take photos during a private meet-and-greet.

Audible CEO Don Katz said the paid internship program -- open only to Newark students -- helps train and prepare the city's youth for future employment. High school interns can move on to the college scholars program and are guaranteed part-time employment, in an effort to break the cycle of generational poverty that plagues many families.

Having speakers like Biden, Katz said, helps open more doors.

"They need encouragement from someone to have a sense of social responsibility no matter who you are," he said. "I think it's really powerful stuff." 

When asked about how to fight back in today's political climate by a young employee, Biden seemed fired up.

"You are diminished if your sister can't marry the girl she loves. You are diminished if your friend is profiled and you can't do anything about it. You can't hide with a deterioration of a civil society," Biden said. "Get involved in the things that stir your interest and you can change things, I promise you."

He encouraged people to go to their home towns and run for local office and imbued a sense of responsibility among a generation he called the most tolerant, well-educated and progressive in history.

"America is an idea, it's an idea and what these guys are doing now is trying to organize based on tribe," Biden said, referring to the current administration. "It's dangerous, it's inconsistent with who we are."

"Kiddo," he said pointing to the back of the room. "You got to get up, you got to get involved."

The audiobook is available for download here: www.audible.com/biden.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment