Column by David Reynolds
We all have roots. Some have local ones. They’re RB&B folks, Rockbridge Born & Bred. Others, like myself, have roots that were planted elsewhere. Last week lightning struck a man whose roots I proudly share.
You may have caught this man’s name in the news over the past few days. I would like to pass along what he said on Saturday, not to the nation and to the world, but to reporter Borys Krawczeniuk. Sorry, If you can’t pronounce his name. You are probably not from our place.
The man Mr. K interviewed knows his roots. This is important. For to know thy roots is to know thy self.
Oh, I forgot. The roots place we are talking about? Scranton, Pa. Think of it as Buena Vista North, only larger and up I-81 a piece. As for the man? Back in our hometown he was called Joey. His 91-year old mother still calls him that.
By now you know the rest of the story. The man is seeking a job change. That’s understandable. He has held the same one for 36 years. He is tired of the long Amtrak train ride home after work. He wishes to move closer to his office. He wishes to move from Wilmington, Del., to Washington, DC – from being one of 100 United States senators to becoming the only vice president of the United States.
“Scranton never leaves you,” is the best way Joe Biden put it in a telephone interview with the Scranton Times-Tribune. He had just gotten rid of his obligation to the national press corps, and now he wanted talk about far more enjoyable things. He wanted to say a few words to those who share our roots. Here is a first taste of what he said:
“I’d say sincerely with all my heart, everything I learned about respecting people, I learned at home. I learned in Scranton. They’re such good, good people. Every value I had came out of that town. My mother, my father, the Finnegans, the Blewitts, the whole crowd. This is the place where I learned the phase, you know, ‘In my neighborhood, a promise made is a promise kept.’”
The reporter then asked a question many of us have been asked, why the attachment to a place where we may have only spent a few years. Sen. Biden was asked why he feels this way about Scranton (he left at age 10; I at 11), when most of his 65 years have been spent in Delaware. This is part of his reply:
“I never left Scranton, as you know. Scranton never leaves you. Scranton is part of your heart. It becomes part of who you are … Scranton never leaves you; it’s in your blood. The other side of it is, even though I moved out of Scranton and moved down to Wilmington because there’s no work for my dad back in the mid-’50s, I came home. I spent my summers with my friends, Charlie, Tommy and Larry and a whole great bunch of guys, going to the Roosie down in Green Ridge Corners, up at Marywood, climbing what used to be the wall, up in Dunmore, coming down that hill at breakneck speed at the oral school. I mean, I really mean it. Wilmington may have had my head, but Scranton’s always had my heart.”
A final sampler of the unedited Biden on Scranton:
“These are people who, you know, who do fly their flags on Flag Day. These are people whose sons go to war, and they do it silently, and they do it bravely, and they come home. These are people who bust their rear ends day in an day out and still have time to talk to their neighbors. I don’t know, maybe I have a little romanticized view because I love the place so much.”
Thank you, Joey. I could not have said it better.
So, if you feel about your hometown, whether it is here or elsewhere, as Joe Biden feels about his, consider yourself lucky. And consider yourself having the perspective to see a world that is capable of being better. You can look ahead because you know where you came from.
This week, when you are watching the Democratic National Convention and a 65-year old passionate Irish Catholic is standing and speaking before the nation, think about another place, one 1,700 miles away from Denver. Think about what got him to the podium and his spot on the ticket of a national political party. Think about his roots. And yours. Start digging into them. Find yourself. Joe Biden found himself.