By Alyse Kaminski
Penn State students and faculty members gathered in Eisenhower Auditorium on Oct. 10 to see former Second Lady Jill Biden give a lecture. The event was part of the SPA’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
Aside from being Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden has quite the resumé. As a longtime educator with two master’s degrees and a doctorate, she is known to be an advocate for women, military families, and an activist for families dealing with cancer. She is also a mother of three, and now a grandmother.
Prior to the event, student Yasmine Campbell said, “I was interested in coming to this event because Jill Biden is a very inspirational figure and I’m interested in politics.”
Freshman Dominika Brice in the division of undergraduate studies feels that she shares common ground with Biden. Brice said, “I’m really passionate about coming here because she’s a military mom and I can relate with that because my uncle is actually a veteran, so he is in the engineering core of the military. I didn’t see him much growing up, having him travel a lot. I’m really passionate about him and what he stands by, so having her stand by that is very uplifting.”
Finally, the lighting in Eisenhower Auditorium lowered and chatting among audience members turned into applause with the introduction of Biden. She began by joking that she had not been to Penn State since the eleventh grade, and in fact, she did not get accepted to Penn State.
She continued her education at the University of Delaware. She also mentioned the fact that she has been working on sharpening her driving skills again, now that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are out of office.
Addressing violence against women, she said, “Women have been made to feel it’s their fault.”
She also recognized the fact that “women carry a heavier share of the burden; we find ourselves being pulled and tugged in all directions and honestly, it can be exhausting.” Biden understands this firsthand. While working full time and pursuing her two master’s degrees and doctoral degree, she managed to raise three children.
Not only did Biden touch on the struggles women face today, but she gave the audience motivation to help one another out in tough times. One example she gave was her women’s mentoring group at the community college she teaches at. The group is centered around women helping women. A piece of encouragement she offered was, “If we can lift up those voices and give them the boost they need, then we can do more.”
Biden additionally spoke about her personal struggles throughout life. One of the hardest times for her was, of course, the loss of her son Beau Biden.
At the time of Beau’s diagnosis and treatment for brain cancer, she told herself that she needed to be strong for Joe, her other two children, and Beau, but she did remind the audience that “Beau was stronger than all of us.”
Once Beau passed away, she said that she needed to continue to find joys in life and always “put one foot in front of the other.”
Biden proceeded to give more advice to the audience with, “Sometimes, we need to learn to lean on other people around us.”
She ended the lecture by saying, “Thank you. Thank you for your work. Thank you for all the good that you will do together for the better future you are dreaming.”
One of the most inspiring moments happened at the end of the question and answer session.
When moderator Jennifer Pencek from the Gender Equity Center asked for advice for anyone dealing with “interpersonal strife and the divisive country,” Biden joked and said that every morning, she and Joe would wake up and scream at the television.
However, they knew they needed to stop and realize, “Things aren’t how we want them, but let’s do something about it.”
Feature Image Credit: U.S. Embassy London