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Joe for America, Joe for Notre Dame

| Monday, October 19, 2020

Some moments in life are so significant, so integral to your story, that they become forever ingrained in your memory.

One such instance that has been on my mind recently is from when I boarded the airplane that would take me from London to my first semester at this spectacular institution. It would be the second time in my life, the first being my formative years in Manhattan, that I had called the United States home. I remember holding my handsome navy-blue American passport in my hands and wondering, nervously, whether the journey would be worth it.

As a teenager living across the Atlantic, the America that I envisioned was, as Ronald Reagan described it, “intoxicating.” It was the land of the dreamy technicolor of “The West Wing,” the heroics of Pointe du Hoc and the Apollo Missions. It was the land where aspiration could, and would, collide with reality.

However, before my flight I had seen — as many across the world did — a shift in the American narrative. The wild and toxic posturing of this country’s leaders made me think that perhaps the rosy images in my head were dreams, and nothing more. Maybe the kid with the plummy voice and the crooked nose, who had grown up in England, wasn’t meant to fit into this America.

I was absolutely wrong to be worried. Since arriving in the United States, I have encountered a country that has exceeded even my most idealized expectations. If I were to describe my American experience in one word, it would be kindness.

This virtuous quality hasn’t just defined the people that I’ve had the good grace to encounter, it defines this university that I’m proud to call home. Notre Dame is predicated upon Catholic social teachings, principles that intrinsically embody kindness and philanthropy.

Ever since our founder, Fr. Edward Sorin, proclaimed his dream that this University would be “a powerful force for good in the world,” Notre Dame has delivered. Incredible acts of good are produced daily by our students and alumni.

In two of our largest student organizations, the Center for Social Concerns and JIFFI, the time and talent of our undergraduates is committed to pursuing charitable endeavors. Countless communities are helped by the selfless work of these students. The commitment to kindness instilled by an education at this university is carried forward by our graduates into their lives and careers. What is started here is felt far and wide.

However, recent events in Minneapolis and Portland have proven that significant proportions of our nation are yet to experience the full benefits of the values we cherish. This is also clear in the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequities — perhaps even the cruelties — of life in this country that it has laid bare.

America’s leaders have been at best inept, at worst complicit, in creating this reality. Over the last four years we have seen children imprisoned on our southern border, temporarily orphaned by law enforcement officers. We have seen repeated failures in our justice system, and the horrifying deaths of innocent Americans. We have also seen the dangerous fissuring of our society along political, racial and economic lines, with little reconciliation in sight.

The ultimate consequence of all these failures is that the nation of decency that Notre Dame strives for — that we believe can and should come to pass — is slipping from our reach.

Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 is the day that we must recapture our essential American ideals. I believe that we have a clear choice to achieve that worthy end.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for president, is axiomatically compatible with our ambitions for a benevolent, prosperous nation.

As an individual Joe Biden is the image of compassion. This is clear to see on the campaign trail.

His — at times astounding — kindness has been demonstrated in comforting those who have unnecessarily lost loved ones to the coronavirus. It has been demonstrated as he has sought to assuage the anguish amongst communities that remain abused in our society. It has been demonstrated in his interactions with ordinary citizens, including a young boy from New Hampshire whom he helped overcome stuttering.

I would argue that the best way to lead, if not the only way, is to do so by example. Joe Biden and the kindness he evidently possesses will proliferate throughout his policies, his government and America as a whole. That is, if he is elected.

Don’t believe in Joe Biden’s compassion? Take a look at his healthcare plan. His proposed public insurance option will, god willing, bring an end to many barbaric conversations occurring during this pandemic — whether this nation’s poorest can afford the treatment of their loved ones. I can think of few political aspirations that so clearly pursue kindness as an outcome.

Those who disagree with my support for Joe Biden will point to the above critique of the United States’ current situation. Some would argue that it is ungrateful, perhaps even unpatriotic, to scrutinize this country. To them I’d say, look at America’s history — it is a timeline of steady progress towards the “kinder, gentler” nation of our founder’s dreams.

Each successive generation of Americans has sought to close the gaps between our country’s original ideals and its reality. Those who have changed this nation did so out of love, out of a real desire to see our principles realized. Continuing that legacy falls to us on Nov. 3.

Joe Biden will, through his policies, and his proven commitment to compassionate leadership, move America closer to the kindness that we seek here at Notre Dame. A vote for Joe Biden is not just a vote for a better America, it is a declaration that we want to see our institution’s principles universalized.

I encourage my fellow students to join me in the worthwhile endeavor of electing Joe Biden as president. There is a whole lot at stake.

Vote for Joe, Vote for Notre Dame.

Henry Jackson 


Oct. 14

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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