Opinion: Never forget how you made them feel
The “post-game” analyses of the 2020 Democratic National Convention have gone on for longer than the convention itself. Critics continue to weigh in on whether Barack Obama or Michelle Obama was the more effective speaker and whether Joe Biden, in his 24-minute acceptance speech (remarkably brief by historical standards), put to rest questions about Sleepy Joe.
But all that, to me, is beside the point. What matters most is what poet Maya Angelou once said: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Three separate pieces over four days had to make you, if you were a sentient human being, feel better about Joe Biden.
The first was U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, a single father with two small boys keeping his word to put his sons to bed every night and to make them breakfast the next morning by taking the Amtrak train from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., and back again every day of the workweek.
The words of the conductors and Amtrak personnel on that train about Joe Biden were revealing. “He just always makes you feel like you belong.” “He was very interested in my life, my children, as time went on, my grandchildren.” Even after Biden became vice president and moved to Washington, he remained in touch. After Amtrak’s Greg Weaver suffered a heart attack, he reported being in a barber shop in New York City and receiving a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden wanting a full report on how Weaver was doing.
“Everybody is special to him,” testifies the Amtrak conductor. What went unmentioned was that, every Christmas, Biden would throw a party for all the Amtrak folks he met and their families. People will never forget how you made them feel.
How many presidential candidates, on the biggest day of their political life, choose to have their name put in nomination on national television not by a statesman or some important governor but by the security guard at The New York Times building? Biden met the security guard when he was on his way to meet with the Times’ prestigious editorial board. He didn’t get the Times’ editorial endorsement, but he did win the all-out backing of Jacquelyn Brittany, who stated directly: “I take powerful people up on my elevator all the time. When they get off, they go to their important meetings. Me? I just head back to the lobby. But in the short time I spent with Joe Biden, I could tell he really saw me … I knew, even when he went into his important meeting, he’d take my story in there with him.”
Finally, the words of a courageous 13-year-old boy from New Hampshire who spoke to the nation: “Hi, my name is Brayden Harrington … and without Joe Biden, I wouldn’t be talking to you today.” When they met, Biden told him: “We were members of the same club. We stutter.” Biden spent time with Brayden, encouraged him, shared tips on how to make speaking easier and “made me feel more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life.” That was the strength of the Convention: You got a real sense of how Joe Biden would make people feel.
— Mark Shields is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.