Politics

“Lifelong Educator” Dr. Jill Biden “Heartbroken” By Trump’s Failure To Protect Students

On the night of her husband’s official nomination for president, Dr. Jill Biden spoke from an empty classroom at Brandywine High School, where she used to teach.

Former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden addresses the DNC from a classroom in Brandywine High School in Delaware, where she used to teach. (Photo by DNCC via Getty Images)
Former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden addresses the DNC from a classroom in Brandywine High School in Delaware, where she used to teach. (Photo by DNCC via Getty Images)

Standing in an empty classroom in Brandywine High School in Delaware where she used to teach, Dr. Jill Biden highlighted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the Trump administration’s failed response in her keynote speech at the DNC Tuesday night.

The former Second Lady spoke after her husband was officially nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate, following the traditional roll call of states.

A longtime teacher of English, reading, and writing, Dr. Biden called attention to the difficult choices school administrators and teachers face across the country regarding reopening.

“You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways,” Dr. Biden said Tuesday night. “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 confined to boxes on a computer screen.”

“I hear it from so many of you,” she continued. “The frustration of parents juggling work while they support their children’s learning — or are afraid that their kids might get sick from school. 

“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’m left asking: how do I keep my family safe?”

Dr. Biden went on to tell a deeply personal story of how she met Joe Biden in 1975, a few years after he lost his first wife and baby daughter in a fatal car crash, and how they started rebuilding his family together. She also spoke about one of her own personal low points, which came many decades later when son Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.

Watch the full speech and continue reading below:

“How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole,” Dr. Biden said. “With love and understanding—and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith. You show up for each other, in big ways and small ones, again and again. It’s what so many of you are doing right now.”

The emphasis on how the ongoing pandemic has affected Americans followed a powerful speech delivered Monday night by Kristin Urquiza, a California woman who lost her previously healthy father to COVID-19.

“His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life,” Urquiza said.

Even as COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing in the U.S. while rates sharply declined in other developed countries, President Trump pressured schools to reopen and get back to business as usual. The administration, including the CDC, has been widely criticized for failing to equip schools with a plan to safely reopen.

“Trump has proven to be incapable of grasping that people are dying — that more than 130,000 Americans have already died,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, in July. As of August 18, more than 171,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and the U.S. accounts for nearly 25% of all confirmed cases worldwide

“Educators want nothing more than to be back in classrooms and on college campuses with our students, but we must do it in a way that keeps students, educators and communities safe,” García said. Schools that reopened for in-person learning this month have already had to close, and others don’t know how long classes should remain online.

Still, Dr. Biden concluded her speech Tuesday night on an optimistic note, saying, “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.”

“We just need leadership worthy of our nation,” she said. 

“That’s Joe. He and Kamala will work as hard as you do, every day, to make this nation better. And if I have the honor of serving as your First Lady, I will too.”

At the end of her remarks, the former vice president joined his wife and introduced himself as “Jill Biden’s husband.” He described Dr. Biden as “the love of my life and the rock of our family.”

Biden will give his official acceptance speech at the DNC on Thursday night. Former President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak Wednesday, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Watch the DNC stream live every night on NowThis YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, or the Dem Convention website.