A new America is dawning



And so it begins.  A new President, a new administration, a new era.  And, hopefully, a newer and better United States. 

“We must end this uncivil war — red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” Joe Biden said in a 20-minute speech following his swearing-in as the 46th President of the United States.  “We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my Mom would say, just for a moment.”

Watching President Joe Biden say that, hearing his folksy address, reminded me of another political leader.  Another one who, like Biden, had been written off as too old, too feeble, too much of yesterday’s man. 

My former boss, Jean Chretien. 

A few days ago, I spoke to Chretien on his birthday.  It has been a tough time for him – he lost his beloved wife Aline in August – but he was still the Prime Minister we all remember.  Smart, tough, decent.  Like Biden.

I gave him my Biden-Chretien theory. 

Both from big, poor Catholic families.  Both had handicaps they overcame – Chretien a palsy that froze half his face, Biden a pronounced stutter.  Both scrappers in school, both had to fight for everything they got.

Neither guy is a snob.  Neither guy is an elitist.  Neither guy ever forgot that there’s more votes on Main Street than there is on Bay Street or Wall Street. 

And underestimated?  Boy, Biden and Chretien have been underestimated a lot.  Both of them could wallpaper their entire house with political obituaries that have been written about them.

Chretien got called yesterday’s man, many times.  And then he won three back to back majorities, and is widely regarded as one of our best Prime Ministers (this writer thinks he’s the best; Chretien, typically, disagrees). 

And Biden?  A year ago he was being written off as the political walking dead.  A feeble old guy, fading, out of touch.  A year later, he’d win with more votes than any presidential candidate in United States history.

Both came into office facing huge challenges.  Chretien, the rising threat of separatism and an economy that was being compared to the Third World. 

Biden gets sworn in as the 46th president a day after the US reaches the grim milestone of 400,000 killed by the coronavirus.  He gets sworn in two weeks after a mob swarmed Capitol Hill and killed a cop and left behind a divided nation.

I asked Chretien about the challenges Biden faces.  He said he has every confidence that the new US president will rise to the occasion, just like he did.  He said the Biden will prevail. 

For the United States, for the world, we need that to be true.  We need America back in the civilized world, helping to lead us through a dark and difficult time.

Full disclosure: I volunteered for Biden, and I was on Chretien’s political staff.  I don’t know the former as well as I know the latter. 

What I do know is this: there is still room, in politics, for men and women who are decent and civil and essentially human.  I know there is still a market for those who see public service as a calling, and not an opportunity to grift. 

Biden and Chretien are like that.  They didn’t get into politics to get rich.  They did it to make things a bit better. 

Chretien did; I believe Biden will too.  But the historians will have the final call. 

In the meantime, a new America is dawning.  It’s time. 

Oh, and President Biden?  Here’s some free advice. 

If you ever stuck with a problem, and you don’t know the solution, phone up my friend Jean Chretien. 

He’ll put you on the right track.

[Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s Special Assistant, and a volunteer for the Biden-Harris campaign.]


Photo Credit: KSAT 12

More from Warren Kinsella.     @kinsellawarren

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