Biden next to last Catholic to speak at DNC
CHARLOTTE — Vice President Joe Biden spoke for about 20 minutes to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. – becoming the highest-ranking elected Catholic in America to speak at such an event.
But he wasn't the last Catholic on stage that night. That belonged to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who gave the benediction before the three-day convention ended.
As President Barack Obama's running mate, Biden was expected to issue some words of praise about his running mate. He spent most of his speech talking about the man he said is a deep personal friend and whom he called a great leader.
But he started out by praising his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who remains a full-time teacher despite being the Second Lady of the United States.
Dr. Biden introduced her husband earlier in the evening, and telling the audience that despite making him ask her to marry him five times, she loved him from the moment she met him.
She is Biden's second wife. She praised him, saying, "When I first met him, Joe had already seen just how fragile life could be. When he was 29 years old, Joe lost his first wife and baby daughter in a tragic car accident while they were out getting their Christmas tree, and the boys were critically injured. Joe's life was shattered. But through his strong Catholic faith and his fierce love for our boys, Joe found the strength to get back up."
She said he was completely supportive of her desire to continue teaching despite his new public role, even when most people didn't think she could do it.
But being a teacher isn't just her job, she said, it's who she is.
Jill and Joe were not the only Bidens on the stage Thursday night. Biden's son Beau Biden, an Iraqi war veteran and Delaware's attorney general, put his father's name in nomination at the convention.
Joe Biden expressed his love and gratitude to both his wife, calling her Jilly, and his son before digging into a speech that was well received by the convention delegates.
"My fellow Americans, four years ago, a battered nation turned away from the failed policies of the past – and turned to a leader – who they knew could lift our nation out of crisis. Our journey isn't finished. We still have more to do. But today, I say to you, my fellow citizens: In the face of the deepest economic crisis in our lifetimes – this nation proved itself."
His praise for Obama was unequivocal and his attacks on Republicans were strong.
"Folks, tonight, I want to tell you about Barack Obama, the Barack Obama I've come to know. I want to show you the character of a leader – who had what it took, when the American people stood at the brink of a new Depression; a leader who has what it takes to lead us over the next four years, to a future as great as our people.
"I want to take you inside the White House to see the President, as I see him every day. Because I don't see him in sound bites. I walk down the hall, 30 steps to the Oval Office, and I see him in action," he said.
Biden credited Obama with helping keep the economy from collapsing, restoring the auto industry in America, ending the war in Iraq, and putting the U.S. on a path out of Afghanistan with honor.
He also gave Obama credit for the help offered in the effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi from his perch in Libya. Gadhafi, Biden said, is dead without an American life lost.
"Day after day, night after night, I sat beside him, as he made one gutsy decision after another – to stop the slide and reverse it," he said about the economy.
"Four years ago, when my mom was still with us, sitting in the stadium in Denver, I quoted one of her favorite expressions. She used to say, 'Joey, bravery resides in every heart, and the time will come, when it must be summoned.' Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you, bravery resides in the heart of Barack Obama. And time and time again, I witnessed him summon it."
"Gov. Romney believes that kids – the kids we call DREAMers, those immigrant children who were brought to America at a very young age through no fault of their own – he thinks they're a drag on America.
"President Obama believes that even though these DREAMERs – these kids – didn't choose to come to America, they've chosen to do right by America and we should do right by them."
On the fair pay issue that the Democrats have made a big part of their convention, he said, "Gov. Romney looks at the notion of equal pay for equal work in terms of a company's bottom line. President Obama knows that making sure our daughters are paid the same as our sons for the same job must be every father's bottom line."
Biden also said he supported keeping America "pro-choice," an opinion which stands in stark opposition to our Catholic faith. Catholics believe that all life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and that we all must work to end abortion.
Biden also made a slight reference in support of a new party plank for Democrats – same-sex "marriage – which is in opposition to Church teaching.
Joining a list of Catholic officials who spoke at the convention or had responsibilities, the DNC also heard from:
• U.S. Sen. John Kerry, 2004 presidential candidate, who gave a speech heavy on foreign policy. Sometimes considered stiff, he did deliver a line that got a lot of applause: "Ask Osama bin Laden if he's better off now than he was four years ago."
• Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, chair of the convention, thanked Charlotte for hosting the event.
• U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco congresswoman, got a third opportunity to speak at the convention Thursday night. She delivered the California delegation's vote in the roll call.
• Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the closing prayer.
— Stephen Guilfoyle, correspondent