“I know the country’s grown weary of the fight. But we need to remember, we’re at war with the virus, not with one another. Not with each other. This is the moment where we need to steel our spines, redouble our efforts and recommit ourselves to the fight,” Biden said, speaking from Wilmington, Delaware. “Let’s remember: We’re all in this together.”
In a somber speech, the President-elect touched on themes of loss and sacrifice, which have long been part of his message but have taken on new urgency as the holidays approach and millions of Americans weigh foregoing traditional family gatherings.
He offered heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic and are struggling around the holidays, and spoke about the pain he has felt after members of his own family passed away too soon.
“I know that this time of year can be especially difficult. Believe me, I know,” Biden said, pausing for a moment and taking a breath. “I remember that first Thanksgiving. The empty chair, the silence. Takes your breath away.”
Biden’s wife and infant daughter were killed in a car accident at Christmas time in 1972, and his son Beau, 46, died of brain cancer in 2015.
“It’s really hard to care,” Biden said. “It’s hard to give thanks. It’s hard to even think of looking forward, and it’s so hard to hope. I understand. I’ll be thinking and praying for each and every one of you at this Thanksgiving.”
The Thanksgiving holiday comes as coronavirus cases spike nationwide, bringing the total of deaths in the US up to nearly 260,000 as of Wednesday, and as a fresh wave of public health restrictions have been put in place to control the spread of the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that Americans do not travel for Thanksgiving, and the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, asked Americans to keep their indoor holiday gatherings as “small as you possibly can.”
Biden sought to empathize with the difficult decisions and situations many Americans currently find themselves in, and spoke about his own family’s pared down Thanksgiving plans to provide an example of a way to stay safe during the pandemic.
Biden said at a news conference last week that his family was scaling back their typically large Thanksgiving gathering and following the guidelines put forward by health experts who say there should be no more than 10 people in a room. He said those attending would be tested for the virus within 24 hours of getting together.
“I know how hard it is to forego family traditions, but it’s so very important,” Biden said, urging Americans to listen to medical experts and wear masks, practice social distancing and limit indoor gatherings.
The President-elect’s compassionate message and his following of public health guidelines to provide an example to the country offered a stark departure from President Donald Trump’s approach to handling the virus.
“Every decision we make matters. Every decision we make can save lives. None of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one of them is based on science, real science,” Biden said.
In addition to personal anecdotes, Biden’s speech was laden with historical references. He spoke about challenging times the country has faced in the past — civil war, centuries of slavery, Jim Crow laws — as reminders of the resilience American citizens have shown and the progress society has made.
“I still believe we have much to be thankful for,” Biden said. “There’s so much to hope for, much to build on, much to dream on.”
The President-elect expressed optimism about the future and the promising news about the development of a coronavirus vaccine, and he offered sincere words of encouragement.
“There’s real hope, tangible hope. So hang on,” Biden said. “Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue, which I understand, it is real fatigue. I know we can and we will beat this virus. America is not going to lose this war. We’ll get our lives back. Life is going to return to normal, I promise you. This will happen. This will not last forever.”