Biden His Time

Gary Villani

Gary Villani Writer, Retired, USW Local 959

On May 2, 2011, hours before I underwent brain surgery, news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed by Navy Seals. “At least I outlived you, you son of a bitch!”

Sitting up, I had accidentally pulled several EEG leads loose from my partially shaved head. An alarm sounded. I apologized to the responding nurses.

I described that moment to Beau Biden a year later, after he led a group of veterans marching in a Fayetteville, North Carolina voter registration drive.

I was still catching my breath and wiping my brow when the Vice President’s son walked over and asked if I was doing alright.

“Yes sir, I’m fine, thank you.” Sketching a salute with my walking stick, I said, “We’ve got other things in common besides we’re both voting for your dad.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes sir. We both served in Iraq—and we both battled brain illness afterwards.”

“And here we still are.” Biden smiled and the genuineness of his expression touched my heart.

I offered a quick account of my medical marathon, including the night bin Laden’s death cheered me up, then identified myself as a 2012 Obama organizing fellowship selectee. I expressed my regret that due to medical setbacks I wasn’t able to do more for the campaign.

“Well, I’m glad you’re out here with us today.”

“Likewise!” I replied. “As a Goodyear Steelworker, the tariff the Obama Administration slapped on China in 2009 for dumping cheap tires in North America made a difference that might’ve saved our jobs. Your father understands what it means to have the backs of the middle class.”

Beau looked proud. I was glad my tendency to get a little tongue tied had given me a break for change.

“My dad always interrogates me for good stories from the campaign trail. This is one I know he’ll like.”

Beau Biden’s death in 2015 from a relentless form of brain cancer deeply saddened me.

Weeks ago, I learned that Joe Biden would appear at the Kimmel Center, in downtown Philadelphia on November 15th to discuss his book, Promise Me, Dad. The man charged with moderating the talk and asking questions would be none other than America’s Shakespeare—the founding father of West Wing, Aaron Sorkin.

All I had to do was score a seat, book a room, and be there.

Being there was a no-brainer in this hate-riddled, tinybrain age of trumpism.

When Mr. Sorkin asked Mr. Biden what keeps him up on sleepless nights these days, President Barack Obama’s rock steady, two term understudy leaned toward the crowd as if meaning to answer eye-to-eye. “I bet less than ten percent of you gave much if any thought to an exchange of nuclear weapons before last Election Day, did you?”

The talk was everything I hoped for—insightful, uplifting and inspiring.

At the end, I couldn’t restrain myself from hollering loud enough to be sure I was heard, “Run, Joe! Run!”