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The Longest Road

As is our habit, we tend to chart the road to the White House for Irish american presidents to starting points in Ireland. In the case of Joe Biden, now president-elect and heading for that house designed by an Irishman, those starting points are primarily Ballina in County Mayo, and Carlingford in County Louth.

The story of Irish emigration/immigration is often a sad one. But it has delivered magnificent results in the United States of America, and in other countries around the world. And by "magnificent" we don't mean only singular triumphs like ascending to the most powerful political office in the world.

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We also are referring to the countless magnificent triumphs achieved by countless people who live their lives honestly, work hard, raise a family, help their friends and neighbors, and take joy in the simple things, even as they must sometimes face life's darker days with all the faith and resolve they can muster.

Joe Biden meets the "magnificent triumph" standard in all of these ways. Even if he had never entered politics; even if we had never heard of him, we know for sure that Joe Biden's life would stand out as a triumph of honesty, empathy, decency.

He would be the kind of friend and neighbor that we would all like to have.

Now, he is about to be our president and we should all consider ourselves fortunate - "all" including those who voted for him and those who did not vote for him. This not just because he has pledged to work for all Americans, but because we know the man well enough to understand that he will work as hard as he can to keep his promise to do so.

With Joe Biden, more than most political figures in American life over the past half century, what you see is what you get.

There have been times and instances where this has prompted criticism, derision and ridicule. It has also been the well source of Joe Biden's extraordinary resilience. And now it is the reason why he is the 46th President of the United States.

And yet, all this might not have come to pass. Biden's first overt quest for the presidency began in a year, 1988, when he was given the last rites of the Catholic Church. He almost died from a brain aneurism. He would try again for the White House and would end up one step shy by becoming President Barack Obama's vice president, and more than that, Obama's wing man.

After Obama's two terms Biden stepped away from his White House dream to allow Hillary Clinton to pursue hers.

By any measure, Joe Biden's life and political career was a standout at this juncture. But there would be more.

Clinton's loss to Donald Trump in 2016 was a shock to Joe Biden, as much as it was to his party and so many people and pundits in the United States and around the world.

But it wasn't Clinton's loss that prompted Biden to crank up the creaky gears that were the remaining parts of his onetime political machine. It wasn't just Donald Trump's win. It was the tone and tenor of Trump's actual presidency.

And so, Joe Biden would stare down that road again, the one that had wound its way from Scranton to Wilmington, from Wilmington to Washington and back again.

It would be fair to say that many in his party shrugged their shoulders. Some laughed. The kinder just smiled.

And Joe Biden, a happy warrior with more tragedy and family loss in his lifetime than any man deserves, smiled too, smiled that famous reflexive smile.

But he also furrowed his brow, gritted his teeth and set out on another quest, one that, even in just the year 2020, would deliver more hills and bends than some lifetime political careers.

Biden seemed dead in the water after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries and looked to all the world as a spent force against an array of rival candidates for the party nomination, some of them less than half his 77 years.

And then came the South Carolina primary, the Palmetto State being a new starting point, a new Ballina, a new Carlingford, a new Scranton, a new Wilmington, the well source of a ferocious new purpose.

And so now, the last few steps to the White House front door.

Joe Biden likes to jog onto a stage, perhaps to reassure us that at almost 78 there are still more miles in what so many considered to be a political jalopy.

He doesn't have to jog now, just walk us steadily into a better future with another history maker with a long road immigrant story, Kamala Harris, by his side - a future, God willing, free of Covid-19, free of economic hardship, free of the fear of becoming sick without health insurance, fear of the immigrant and "the other," fear of raging fire and rising water, and, most importantly, fear of our fellow Americans who, in truth, are each other's friends and neighbors, the Bidens next door.

This is the Irish Echo's Editorial for the November 11-17 issue