In January 2008, I joined my uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, to endorse Barack Obama for president. We believed America was ready for a new generation of leadership, for a president who would inspire us, as my father did, to believe in the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and the nobility of public service.
We face a very different world today. President Trump has done immense damage to our institutions, exploited our differences, and shredded our credibility around the world. I am excited by the Democratic candidates and the ideas they have put forward. But this year, it’s not just policy proposals that are on the ballot. Our fundamental values are at stake as never before in my lifetime.
America’s place in the world and the society our children inherit will be determined by the character of the leader we choose. We need a president who can bring people together, who knows how to get things done at home and abroad, whose word we can count on, and who can nurture the next generation of leaders. We need Joe Biden.
As vice president, he came to Japan not long after I arrived as ambassador in 2013. He stepped off Air Force Two wearing his aviator glasses and a big smile. He radiated American optimism and generosity of spirit. He made clear that America would always stand by our allies, and that we were committed to keeping the region peaceful and prosperous. He delivered tough messages as well, but he did it in private, with skill and respect. He thanked our diplomats for serving far from home. I saw a leader who was strong but fair, and who had the trust and respect of other countries.
Joe Biden is admired abroad because of his record of accomplishment at home. As senator, he secured a unanimous vote to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. He led the fight to ban assault weapons — twice defeating the NRA. He wrote and passed the Violence Against Women Act to combat domestic violence and sexual assault. He won Senate support for historic agreements to reduce nuclear arsenals and ban chemical weapons.
When Barack Obama was running for president, he asked me to help lead his search for a running mate, and I supported Joe Biden. Their strong partnership and commitment to fundamental American values achieved real progress on climate change, marriage equality, tax fairness, and criminal justice reform.
As vice president, Biden secured Republican votes to pass the American Recovery Act, which helped prevent a second Great Depression. He was Obama’s point person for the Affordable Care Act — working with my Uncle Teddy to guarantee quality affordable health care to millions more Americans.
But this election is about more than achievement. It is about character.
I have admired Joe Biden since I was a Senate intern, in 1974. He was a new senator, devout Catholic, and devoted father to two young sons who had just lost their mother and sister. Teddy recognized him as someone who shared his belief that government should always be on the side of those who need help. In their own families and beyond, they gave others strength in times of loss. They never stopped listening to those who were struggling and treated everyone with dignity. They fought for working families. They worked across the aisle to get the best deal possible and battled to protect the gains they had won. They shared an empathy for others and a commitment to service over self.
Most important, this election is about winning. We need a nominee who can compete in every state, who can bring wandering Democrats and independents back to the fold, and even attract some Republicans. Biden at the top of the ticket is our best bet to win the White House, keep the gains we made in the House, and put the Senate in play.
Although 60 years have passed, people still tell me that they are inspired by the words from my father’s inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Joe Biden embodies those words. He understands that the source of America’s strength — what truly makes us great — are the values and ideals that unite us. That’s what his life of service tells us. That is what his character and decency reflect. That’s why, at this fragile moment for our democracy, Joe Biden is the president we need.
Caroline Kennedy is an attorney who served as the US ambassador to Japan from 2013 to 2017.