PROMISE ME, DAD : A Year Of Hope, Hardship And Purpose (AJ-03)Joe Biden
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The Heartbreaking Story Of Joe Biden’s Most Difficult Year
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★★ The Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller ★★
From President Joe Biden, Promise Me Dad is his deeply moving memoir about the year that would forever change both a family and a country.
Biden reflects on losing his eldest son Beau to brain cancer and the toll it took on him and his family. He describes his late son as having “all the best of me, but with the bugs and flaws engineered out.”
Biden also talks about the political implications his son’s death had: his decision not to run for president in 2016 was in large part due to the grief he was still processing. He was further discouraged from running by Hillary Clinton’s entry into the race and President Obama’s implied preference that Biden not dilute her support in the primary elections.
The title of the book was inspired by a conversation Biden had with Beau after his cancer had progressed significantly. Coming to terms with his own mortality, Beau assured his father that no matter what happened, he would be okay. He then asked his father to promise the same in return.
“Biden splices a heartbreaking story with an election story and a foreign affairs story. And in so doing, he offers something for everyone, no matter which strand draws you in.”―The New York Times Book Review
In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past forty years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life.
The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought, and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden’s eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. “Promise me, Dad,” Beau had told his father. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe Biden gave him his word.
Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. As vice president, Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq.
When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad―“Joe, I need your help”―he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.
The year brought real triumph and accomplishment, and wrenching pain. But even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.
Writing with poignancy and immediacy, Joe Biden allows readers to feel the urgency of each moment, to experience the days when he felt unable to move forward as well as the days when he felt like he could not afford to stop.
With the devastating tragedy of watching his son slip further each day into an area of no return, Joe Biden still had to fly across the globe because duty called. Beau Biden’s undeterred spirit to want things up and running even though he was dying, is the explicit force that kept the family going.
In these testing times, the commitment of Vice-Presidency and its work pressure was all the hope Joe could see. The touching memoir inspires the reader to understand how quitting is never an option. Biden’s chronicle of his most trying time is an informative political read that goes on to prove: tough men outlast tough times.
This is a book written not just by the president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.
Review From The Guardian :
Joe Biden’s new book describes a year of unbelievable sensory overload, from his son Beau’s cancer to the dilemma of whether to run for president
Promise Me, Dad is Joe Biden’s poignant account of the most challenging year of his vice-presidency and the second-most difficult year of his life.
The first time he had been knocked down by what he calls “the Irishness of life” was immediately after he was first elected senator from Delaware, in 1972. Less than six weeks later his wife and his daughter were killed and his two sons were injured in a car accident.
The second time came four decades later, when his son Beau, by then attorney general and likely next governor of Delaware, was found to have brain cancer.
Biden’s book describes a year of almost unbelievable sensory overload, when the vice-president was juggling frequent visits to the hospital to comfort his son with regular phone calls to the prime minister of Iraq and the president of the Ukraine, and a big initiative to stabilize Central America after thousands of children started to stream across the southern US border.
Folded into all of this activity was Biden’s struggle to decide whether he would try to succeed Barack Obama, or leave the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
We get a handful of surprising vignettes. There is Biden looking into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and saying “I don’t think you have a soul”, and the Russian president replying: “We understand each other.”
There is Obama telling Biden he doesn’t think he can beat Hillary, but also offering to loan him money when the vice-president says he may need to mortgage his house to raise funds to help his son.
And there is the vice-president making sure that each of his children and grandchildren visits a Nazi concentration camp, to give them a “visceral jolt” and to remind them that “this can happen again” and that “silence is complicity.”
More than anything else, the book is a reminder of the importance of politics: how much elections can change the trajectory of a country, and how different America has become one year after Donald Trump was elected president.
Here we have a portrait of two politicians, Obama and Biden, devoted to each other and to doing whatever they can to improve America and encourage democracy around the world. Instead of a president like Trump, in thrall to Putin, we watch these two lobbying European allies to engage in the sanctions they think are necessary to punish Russia for stealing Crimea.
And rather than tweets and press conferences giving aid and comfort to white supremacists, we see a vice-president visiting the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina twice in three days after nine of its parishioners were shot dead by a crazed racist – partly because Biden had known one of the victims, the Rev Clementa Pinckney.
Biden gives himself some well-deserved credit for the supreme court decision to make marriage equality the law of the land in 2015, partly because he came out in favor of that position before Obama did and partly because he played an important role in the effort to stop Robert Bork joining the court in 1987, when Biden was chairman of the Senate judiciary committee.
When Bork’s nomination failed, he was replaced by Anthony Kennedy, who was supported by Biden and who has written all of the important pro-gay decisions the court has rendered. The difference between Bork and Kennedy is perhaps the strongest evidence of all of the power of politics.
Biden repeatedly asserts that he would have been successful if he had run for president in 2016. But first his decision was delayed by his son’s cancer, and then it was made for him by his son’s death. Although Beau Biden had repeatedly urged his father to run, in the end he was just too drained by the tragedy to run for president.
The author explains that the grieving process “doesn’t respect or much care about things like filing deadlines or debates and primaries and caucuses. And I was still grieving.”
If his son hadn’t died, and if he had prevailed over Clinton in the primary, Biden would have campaigned for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, free tuition at public colleges, real job training, onsite affordable child care, equal pay for women, strengthening the Affordable Care Act and modernizing the country’s roads and bridges and water and sewer systems.
Would all that and his stronger connection to working-class Americans have combined to derail the Trump juggernaut? That will always be one of the unanswerable mysteries of American politics.
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