by Laura Mortkowitz
Although Valerie Biden Owens admits to not being an expert on taxes, Wall Street and the bailout, she claims to be an expert on something else: her brother, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Speaking at the Bart Luedeke Center Theater Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. from the perspective of a sister, Owens not only wanted voters to get insight into Biden but also to view him as a candidate. After all, the presidential race is bigger than “if my brother gets to be vice president or not,” she said.
Owens added that the presidential campaign and vote isn’t just overwhelming for the candidates, but also for everyone who helps to elect the president.
“When I travel around, I ask people to look at my brother and Barack [Obama] and check them out to see if they measure up to their standards of what they expect from the next president and vice president,” she said. “Because the race isn’t about Joe Biden or Barack or Palin and McCain; it’s about you. It’s about your family. It’s about your hopes. It’s about your fears. And it’s about your future.”
Following her own advice to measure the candidates in terms of someone who is fierce, smart, passionate and responsible, Owens gave a history lesson to better understand Biden.
Biden and Owens were two of four children in a middle-class family living in Scranton, Pa. Their mother, Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden, taught them to be strong, reliant and passionate.
“She taught her children, and every child that came into our house, that you were defined by your sense of honor and that you were deemed by your loyalties,” Owens said. “She taught us that failure in each of our lives was inevitable, but giving up was unforgivable.”
As children, they also learned rights and wrongs from their father and his disdain for bullies. Owens recalled a Christmas business party her father and mother attended where the boss “took a bucket of silver dollars and he threw them on the floor and he laughed as he watched all the employees scramble to pick up the silver dollars.”
Their father quit as he left the party.
“When we grew up, we were taught, in no uncertain terms, by our family and by our church, that the greatest sin was the abuse of power,” Owens said.
She attributes Biden’s creation of the Violence Against Women Act to the lessons they learned from their father. Biden wrote the act when he read in some reports “astounding data.”
“One quarter of teenage boys thought that date rape was okay,” she said. “And one out of every 10 men thought it was okay for a husband to hit his wife.”
Upon reading this information, Biden sat down and wrote the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 because “like my father, my brother hates bullies,” Owens said.
“The Violence Against Women Act not only criminalizes violence against women, but for the first time it shined the national spotlight on the dirty little secret we used to call domestic violence,” Owens said.
At the time that Biden was writing the act, the country had more animal shelters than women and children shelters.
Owens spoke on a few of the changes Obama and Biden are looking to make if they get to the White House. She said she knows it isn’t all talk because some of the plans hit close to home for the two men.
The two are going to cut taxes because Biden came from a middle-class family that knows the pressures of needing each and every paycheck. She also had some words for Republicans who “paint Barack Obama as not one of us.”
“Give me a break,” she said. “This is a guy who was raised by a single parent … who actually did the struggle. Don’t tell me that Barack Obama is not one of us.”
Obama and Biden want to bring down health care costs by $2,500 for each family as well as make it accessible and affordable. Biden has suffered two aneurysms, spent time in intensive care and would have died if he hadn’t had the best care, according to Owens.
“And had he not had the best insurance, had he lived, he would be financially broken and destitute,” she said.
As Owens gave her speech on the last day residents in New Jersey could register to vote, she urged people to “drag everyone in your universe” to cast their votes on Nov. 4.
“Barack and Joe are the right men, at the right time, for the right reason, for the right job,” Owens said.