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Why He’s a MAKER: We love the bromance memes. We cheered when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But what you need to know about Joe Biden is how he’s fought to end violence against women. He’s written laws, started movements and continues to drive change today. “As long as there’s a breath in me, I’m going to continue to be engaged in this.”
Feminist Foundations: Biden grew up in Scranton, Pa., the son of parents determined to raise good humans. “My dad used to say the cardinal sin of all sins was for a man to raise his hand to a woman. My mother’s expression was ‘Joey, look at me. Remember, you’re defined by your courage, and you’re redeemed by your loyalty.”
Single Dad: In 1972, just weeks after Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate, his wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident. Biden was left to raise his two sons alone. “I knew I had an obligation to them, but it turns out my boys ended up raising me.” They also won the heart of Jill, who Biden married in 1977.
Taking Action: In 1990, Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act. “When I started to write the legislation, I was convinced we had to get some brave women to come forward and take this out of the shadows. It allowed other women to say, ‘Wait a minute, that happened to me.’” The Act became law in 1994.
#MenToo: In his role as Veep, Biden brought his fight to prevent sexual assault to college campuses. One theme emerged during his town halls with women students. “I said, ‘If we can do anything to make you safer, what would it be?’ The overwhelming response was, ‘Get men involved.’” That became the focus of Biden’s “It’s On Us” movement, which got young men to pledge to change their behavior.
Changing the Conversation: After serving as VP for eight years, Biden started the Biden Foundation to continue his public service just as many brave women began breaking the silence around workplace assault. His yardstick for progress: “We’ll succeed when we change the culture enough that no woman says, ‘What did I do?’ And no man says, ‘Well I was entitled,’ or ‘She asked for it.’
The Future: Having defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election, he was inaugurated as the 46th president on January 20, 2021.
JOE BIDEN: Nothing justifies a man laying a hand on a woman without her consent. It's rape if you cannot give consent. It is assault. It is never, never, never, never justified.
I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and I won the gene pool. My mother was sweet and gentle but a backbone like a ramrod. She'd say, Joey, look at me. Remember, you're defined by your courage, and your redeemed by your loyalty. My dad was a man of enormous integrity. He used to say it's the greatest sin that can be committed is abuse of power, and the cardinal sin of all sins was for a man to raise his hand to a woman. I mean, for real, he taught us that if we saw something, speak up, speak out, do something.
I commuted every day from Delaware, and right after the accident, I realized every time I'd leave, my two boys would worry about, is dad coming back? The decision I made was whenever my children wanted me, I would stop whatever I was doing and do it without exception. And then Jill came along and saved our lives basically. I mean, I had to ask her five times to marry me, and the fifth time she said, OK. And my sister is a great friend of hers said, what made you change your mind? She said, I fell in love with the boys.
So. Every important thing my sons, and later my daughter, ever, ever said to me has been spontaneous. You know, it's like riding down the street in my old Corvette. We stopped at a country road, and little Hunter turns to me and says, daddy, I love you more the whole sky. I'm not sure what I would have done had my two boys not survived, because I knew I had an obligation to them. But it turns out, my boys ended up raising me.
When I started to write the legislation, I was convinced that we had to get some brave women to come forward and take this out of the shadows. It was the dirty little secret that no one wanted to talk about. There was a young woman at a small Catholic college, and she agreed to come and testify. She was a freshman, and a guy said, I'll walk you back to the dorm. Can we stop in my dorm? I want to get a coat. And he dragged her into the room, and he raped her.
And I'll never forget what she said. She said, I ran home, I stripped down and took a scalding shower. She said, I was sitting on the end of my bed crying, and the resident advisor, the RA, came in, and I told her what happened. And she said, you've been raped. She said, no, I wasn't. I knew him. I knew him. It allowed other women to say, wait a minute, why should anybody make me feel badly that I was abused?
When I became vice president, the president asked me, is there anything I wanted? I said, yes, I want to take the Violence Against Women Act, and I want to bring it inside the vice president's office. So we started investigating colleges. A startling number came back. One in five women dropped off on a college campus going to be the victim of sexual violence.
I spoke with over 150 college presidents which really made them uncomfortable. A lot of them didn't like it. I held a town meeting with tens of thousands of students, and I said, if we could do anything to make you feel safer, what would it be? An overwhelming response was, get men involved.
There's just an awakening, and women are coming forward now who've been victimized, because they gave hope and courage to other women. We'll succeed when we change the culture enough that no woman says, what did I do? And we'll have succeeded when no young man says, well, it was my right, or I was entitled, or she asked for it.
I ask young men to take the pledge that they will intervene if they see something going wrong. It's on everybody to change the culture. And so long as there's a breath in me, I'm going to continue to be engaged in this.