May 11, 2009 Herm Card Uncategorized
Biden travels back to Syracuse his former alma mater and home.
On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden made two talks in Syracuse.
In his first, to some 28,000 at Syracuse University’s graduation ceremony in the Carrier Dome, he spoke passionately of 1968, the year of his graduation from the university’s law school. Following an introduction by Chancellor Nancy Cantor, in just under 40 minutes he delivered an inspirational talk to rival any ever delivered by any coach on the same ground.
His second, introduced some 90 minutes later by Student Council President Aaliyah Osorio, addressed, in far softer yet no less passionate tones, a generation of students at least 11 years away from their college graduation. With this appearance in front of some 200 students at Bellevue Elementary School, Joe Biden had, twice in the same day, come home.
Biden’s talk at the university was, in many ways, a typical appearance for a man of high office and great accomplishment — a return to his alma mater to send off the current graduates to have their impact on the world. His talk at Bellevue was far different, an unparalleled opportunity for Biden to revisit his past and leave a distinct imprint on the future.
Biden’s Syracuse connections
The story of his time in Syracuse is well known by now. While he attended Syracuse Law School, his wife, Neilia, taught seventh grade at the then Bellevue Heights School and became a respected and beloved part of the school and neighborhood community.
We also know of the tragic death of Neilia and their daughter, Naomi, in a car crash in Delaware. We know of his election to the US Senate at age 29, and his rise to the office of Vice President. And now we know, first hand, of his own respect and love for the generation that is several presidential elections away from their chance to make an impact.
He told the rapt, respectful and very well behaved cluster of students that now is the time for them to begin to make a difference. The formula is simple — make good choices, respect themselves and others, work hard, and above all else, never let conditions around them force them to change their dreams. Biden didn’t pull any punches in revealing his own difficult childhood. He talked of the difficulties, financial and emotional that he faced, and the struggle he had to go through to succeed. His message was simple, direct and well received.
And then the fun began
Those of us who have taught know the joy and also the uncertainty of what tends to follow the invitation for questions from the audience. And for some 20 minutes, the Vice President exhibited the Q and A artistry he’s become known for.
Following the first question, “If the White House was painted black and red, would it be called the ‘Black and Red House?” he replied “Yes, I’m sure it would,” but went on to point out that he’s glad it’s white.
He was asked if he dreamed of growing up to be Vice President, and replied that “Up until a hundred or so days ago I was actually thinking about being President.”
When asked what he does for a living, he said that he and President Obama spend their time trying to make our country safe and trying to find ways for everybody to get a good education and a good job.
He allowed that President Obama is a much better basketball player than he is, and that he likes his house better than the President’s because it has more land around it.
Eventually, and too soon, his time was up, but he wouldn’t leave until he had circulated around the room sitting among clusters of students for photos, and promising to send autographs to the students who wanted them.
Then, after exiting the building, and probably to the chagrin of his Secret Service contingent, Joe Biden went back to the neighborhood. He walked across Stolp Avenue and became part of the assembled crowd. While the Secret Service maintained order, he shook hands, posed for photos and looked every bit the regular guy who just happens to have a really big job.
Then, into his limo for a not unexpected three block drive to 608 Stinard, the former home of Neilia the teacher and Joe the law student – home 41 years ago, and for a few minutes, home again today.
Herm Card is a retired Marcellus Middle School English teacher. He is the City Eagle’s street reporter.