Day 162 of Self Quarantine Covid 19 Deaths in U.S.: 175,000
In the fall of 2014 I attended my first TEDxRainier Seattle in the Opera Hall at the Seattle Center. Each of the speakers had a well honed message that supported the theme of the “known and the unknown”:
“Our theme is: The known and the unknown. We all face a shared future that is inherently riddled with unknowns. Our speakers and performers present windows into a rich variety of explorations, actions and reactions that may offer possible solutions to many long-present and new challenges. Stretch beyond the constraints of what we know and spark your curiosity for deeper exploration and engagement. Each of our speakers offers new knowledge informed by their work and their unique perspectives. Each raises intriguing questions that help us define and guide how we perceive and embrace our future.”
I enjoyed each of the talks, but it was the photo journalism of Rex Hohlbein that has stayed with me.
“A Seattle native, Rex ran a successful residential architectural firm for 30 years.
“Seven years ago, after befriending several men experiencing homelessness along the Fremont canal, Rex started a Facebook page to raise awareness for those living unsheltered through the sharing of photos and personal stories. Today, that Facebook page has over 46,000 followers, becoming a thriving and inspirational non-profit, Facing Homelessness. This year begins a new chapter, as Rex combines both architecture and community outreach in starting a social justice architecture firm, BLOCK Architects, with his daughter Jenn LaFreniere.”
As he showed his photographs and told the personal stories behind each photograph, what came through loud and clear in each story was “He Saw Me!”.
This week I sat enthralled, engaged, and a little teary eyed at times during the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The nomination of Vice President Biden delivered by Jacquelyn, a security guard at the NY Times offices touched me deeply.
Jacqueline shared “But in the short time I spent with Joe Biden, I could tell he really saw me, that he actually cared, that my life meant something to him.”
On Thursday night we were treated to the same phenomena of “he saw me” shared by Brayden Harrington.
“They had met in February at a campaign event in New Hampshire. After they first spoke on the rope line, the former vice president invited Brayden backstage to continue their conversation about stuttering and told him about how he has worked to overcome his own stutter.
“He told me that we were members of the same club: We stutter. It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became vice president,” Brayden said Thursday night in the video recorded for the convention.
Biden, who has said he still occasionally catches himself stuttering, showed Brayden a copy of the campaign speech he had just delivered in New Hampshire with markings showing where he could take breaks between words.
“He showed me how he marks his addresses to make them easier to say out loud. So I did the same thing today,” Brayden said, flipping around the piece of paper he was reading to show the markings on his speech.
“I’m just a regular kid, and in a short amount of time, Joe Biden made me feel more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life. Joe Biden cared. Imagine what he could do for all of us. Kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to. Someone who cares. Someone who will make our country and the world feel better. We’re counting on you to elect Joe Biden,” Brayden said.
A variant on “he saw me” was all of us seeing the powerful resilience of Gabby Giffords relating her personal recovery from gun violence. I saw her. We saw her. More importantly I heard her.
“Giffords, a key voice on gun violence prevention who had been shot in the head while speaking with constituents during the deadly attack in Tucson, urged Americans to take action to end gun violence in a taped speech calling on voters to elect Biden as president. Her remarks were the longest she has given since surviving the shooting nearly a decade ago, her spokesman Jason Phelps told CNN.
“Words once came easily, today I struggle to speak. But I have not lost my voice. America needs all of us to speak out, even when you have to fight to find the words,” Giffords said.
“Giffords worked for months with her speech therapist to perfect her remarks to capture her connection with Biden, who she endorsed in March, and the importance of this moment in history, according to Phelps.”
He saw me. I heard her.
Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post pointed out in February 2020, that there are two Joe Bidens running for President. This week we got to experience better versions of both Joe Bidens.
“In short, Biden sounds like a man whose time has passed. Many in the modest-sized crowds that he draws are dismayed. After he spoke on the same stage as the other Democratic candidates at a state Democratic Party dinner on Saturday night, one undecided voter told me: “Joe needs to retire.” This has become a common refrain, even among people who admire and respect Biden.
But then there is the Biden you see mostly on the rope line.
As soon as the sound on his mic is turned off, he dives toward the area where those who remain behind are standing to shake his hand or take a selfie.
At those moments, Biden is transformed. He lingers with anyone who wants to tell him a story, even as maintenance workers start dismantling his stage and folding up chairs. People light up in his presence. Perhaps because of the personal suffering he has endured, Biden seems to have a kind of radar that draws him to people who are starving for solace and reassurance, and they to him.
“On the stump, he is at his most compelling when he stops talking about himself and starts telling the stories of the people he has met.”
I heard her! He saw ME!