Saturday, November 7, 2020, four long days after the election, was Euphoria Day. Linda and I dubbed it so in a rush of enthusiasm and a deep need for distraction. Just before 8:30 that morning the major news outlets announced Joe Biden had crossed the 270 electoral votes threshold and would be the next president of the USA. We deliberately set aside all concerns up to that day and postponed our worries about what’s ahead. It was time to celebrate the announcement and relish the evening coming up. Euphoria Day!
Leading up to the election, my moods swung widely. There were many days when I was certain that Joe Biden would be elected. How could anything else be possible? Surely Americans who had been hypnotized by 45 were snapping out of their collective trance. Other days I would quake at the thought of four more years. On Euphoria Day, though, all was well!
The evening’s celebration was the tonic I needed. First, the celebration of Vice President Elect Kamala Harris. The meme going around Facebook was all about warning us to wear shoes for glass was shattered all over the ground. There she was, dressed in her suffragette white pant suit, the first women, the first Black, the first Southeast Asian, the first child of immigrants, elected to such a position. I’ve read and re-read the words she spoke that night. “You chose hope and unity, decency, science, and yes, truth. Joe Biden is a healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand, a person whose own experience of loss gives him a sense of purpose …. a man with a big heart who loves with abandon.” She went on to say, “He had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exist in our country and select a woman as his VP.”
Her words that will stay with me were,“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” The next morning, a friend on Facebook posted she’d been watching with her young daughter. When our next Vice President said those words, young Isabella said out loud, “Wait, me?!?” Vice President Elect Harris, the girls are listening.
I was a jumble of feelings as President Elect Biden took the stage. Joy, of course. Relief, optimism – and a large douse of nostalgia. I was so thirsty for language of hope, community, values, love.
After four years of a president who has misused religion, and who saw the Bible only as a photo-op, it was a deep joy to have Joe include words based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. “The Bible tells us there’s a season, a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow, and a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.” Amen, I say.
“Americans have called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, to marshal the forces of science and the forces of a hope in the great battles of our time … We will lead not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example …Tonight the whole world is watching America, and I believe at our best, America is a beacon for the globe.”
A beacon for the globe. I was especially caught by Biden’s choice of words, for the United States had lost whatever claim it might have had for that title.
For the second time that evening, Joe dipped into scripture for his remarks. This time he was recalling Matthew 5:14-16. You are the light of the world A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and place it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The Puritan pilgrim, John Winthrop, was probably the first to use the example of a city on a hill when describing the new world his people would create. He used the words as a warning, stating that as “a city on a hill,” if they were to break their covenant with God, their sins and errors would be exposed for the world to see.
The phrase is familiar since it was used by Ronald Reagan in his Farewell Address to the nation. In it, he defined his vision of a “shining city upon a hill.” Reagan said, “In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And, if there had to be city wall, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get there.”
That day, November 7, 2020, the day named Euphoria, I took in President Elect Biden’s word. I soaked them in, for in those moments I dared dream that the U.S. could be again a beacon for the world. Despite all its faults, it’s dark history of racial injustice, diminished reputation in the world, against the backdrop of a pandemic, despite all that, we might again be admirable enough to stand bravely as a city on the hill. Euphoria is strong in the moment, yet to easily puffed away by reality. For that one day, though, I dared dream the dream.
Thank you, reader. You help me make my way through these days I pray I nudge you along a bit, too.