Jill Biden Ratchets Up Warnings About the Threats to Democracy
The first lady voices her concerns ahead of the 2024 presidential elections while sharing personal stories at a series of fundraising events.
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East Wing Magazine
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden wrapped up her week of fundraising Thursday echoing a warning that “the survival of America’s democracy” and “a battle for the soul of this nation” are what’s at stake in the 2024 presidential election just days after Donald Trump won Iowa’s Republican primary caucus.
Biden spoke on the patio of Puma Springs Vineyards to some 80 to 100 attendees around tables assembled under a big party tent in a fundraiser outside the California Wine Country town of Healdsburg. The Biden Victory Fund event was hosted by its owners, Barbara Grasseschi and Tony Crabb. Behind Biden, as she spoke, were the sun-streaked vineyards and hills of Dry Creek Valley.
Standing at a podium with a stunning view of vineyards and hills in the background, the first lady described the 2024 presidential election as a choice “between those of us in this room, and the hundreds of millions more across this country, who believe in America and wish to defend it, and those who are tearing it apart. Between those who hold sacred free and fair elections, and the peaceful transfer of power, and those who assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6.”
Her remarks on Thursday came after three other stops earlier this week – one in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday and two in Park City, Utah, on Tuesday. She took the opportunities to also advocate for her husband, Joe Biden, and his accomplishments while in office as well as sharing some personal stories.
On Wednesday, Jill Biden spoke to a crowd of about 25 donors for the Biden Victory Fund at the home of Gretchen Sisson and Andrew McCollum near Buena Vista Park in San Francisco. She touted her husband’s accomplishments since he assumed office in 2021.
“So many of you know that he's helped pass the boldest climate legislation in American history. He put Ketanji Brown Jackson on the Supreme Court. He's got one of the strongest economic recoveries in modern history. He fought Big Pharma and won. And he's brought people together from both sides of the aisle to find common ground, which so many people said couldn't be done,“ she said.
Biden also highlighted points from the president’s agenda, “We have to make universal pre-K a reality. I'm sure you agree with that. We have to protect our children from gun violence. We have to restore a woman's right to health care.”
Throughout her stops this week, Jill Biden shared a number of personal stories about the couple’s courtship, marriage, and family.
At Puma Springs Vineyards on Thursday, Biden shared a story about a first date with her future husband. Noting that she wore her hair down to the middle of her waist – “and so did most of the men I dated” – she was surprised to find the neatly trimmed young Senator at her door.
“I open the door,” she said, “and I take one look at his perfect suit, and his leather loafers, and I thought, ‘Thank God this is only one date.’ Well, one date turned into a marriage proposal. And if I’m being honest, it was five proposals. This was not part of my plan.”
The first lady then reflected on the tragic car accident that claimed the lives of Joe Biden’s first wife, Neila, and baby daughter, Naomi, and put Beau and Hunter Biden in the hospital for several months.
“After all they had lost, I knew that if I said yes to Joe’s proposal, that it had to be forever,” she said.
Around this point in Biden’s remarks, chants could be heard in the background that turned out to be pro-Palestinian protesters below the property on Chiquita Road, calling upon the Biden Administration to work toward a ceasefire in Gaza.
At Wednesday’s San Francisco event that had a number of young children in the room, the first lady shared another story about her sons, Beau and Hunter, as children bringing home a snake they caught in a net.
“I ran upstairs, I slammed the door. I was so frightened,” she said. Over the next few months, their relationship deepened, she said, until one day the boys gave her a kiss before school, “They hugged me and they said, ‘love you, mom,’ and they did it without a thought. In that moment I went from being Jill to mom.”
And on Tuesday, following a brief visit at Ambassador Mark Gilbert’s home, the first lady made another stop for the Biden Victory Fund at the home of Glenn and Susan Rothman in Park City, Utah. Biden’s remarks were similar to those she made at the Ambassador’s home but she addressed a much more intimate crowd of about 25 donors over dinner.
Biden, sharing the familiar story of how she met her husband went on to talk about his string of marriage proposals.
“Many of you … might have heard, Joe asked me to marry him five times,” Biden said. “But what you may not know is exactly what happened the fifth time that merits a different answer.”
She said she’d never forget, it was the spring of 1977 and the then-senator gave her an “ultimatum:” he was leaving for 10 days and when he returned, he wanted an answer.
“I was unquestionably in love, but after a painful earlier divorce, I was also scared and hardened to the difficulty and the fragility of relationships.”
Biden said, however, the President was always reassuring and his love for his late wife Neilia Biden encouraged her.
“It’s hard to know what you owe a spouse who died before you came along…. Some let questions of what would have been eat away at their peace of mind. But from the beginning, Joe made it clear that there was room enough for both of us,” she said. “I knew that if he could love Neilia as deeply as he did, then I could be loved that completely, too.”
Biden said that the President has maintained the same high quality of character in their marriage as he has leading the U.S.
“Always unflappable, always unflinching,” Biden said. “You see that in his character and through the highs and lows of this country, of this world.”
Back at Puma Springs Vineyards on Thursday, Biden turned her closing remarks to politics. She asked attendees, like she has at other recent fundraising events, to remember how they felt the day after the 2016 election, when Trump was elected president. Although, she did not utter his name. The recollection drew groans from the audience. She summed up that feeling as, “Oh my God, what just happened?”
“I don’t want to wake up again the next morning and say, ‘Oh, we should have started earlier. We should have done this differently, we should have done that,’” Biden implored. “No. We have to begin right now. We have to meet this moment as if our rights are at stake – because they are. As if democracy is at stake – because it is.”
Following the event, she was off to Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, headed to Los Angeles and then on to Ohio.
(Phil Barber, Ruth Dusseault and Carmen Nesbitt contributed to this story.)
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