AS SEEN ON
Joe Biden truly saw me: Why one former staffer supports the vice president and says other women should too
By Cathleen Trigg-Jones
I was born to an interracial couple in the midst of civil unrest — much like the world we live in today. Only it was the 1960s, six days after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The streets were on fire. Racial tension was at an all-time high. And my skin color was seen as an embarrassment.
Race was the reason I was not wanted, the reason my white mother was forbidden to keep me. Race was the reason I was left at an orphanage and shuffled between foster homes. Yet my race was also the reason two angels arrived to rescue me — a young African-American military couple looking to complete their family by adding a little girl who looked like me. I was given a name, a home and a shot at a whole new life.
Fast forward years later. I had recently graduated from the historically black Delaware State College, where I worked three jobs to make enough money to put myself through school and raise my own daughter as a single mother. I was young and inexperienced but determined to make it as a reporter. I was covering a story at the local agricultural museum when I first met then-Sen. Joe Biden. I asked for an interview. He was kind and charismatic, taking the time to ask my name, and how long I had been at the TV station. He answered my questions, offered a few pointers and wished me luck.
A year or so later, I was trying to exit the Amtrak train at the Wilmington stop, arms full of bags and my little girl in a stroller, when a kind gentleman offered to help me. Noticing my struggle, he quickly swooped up the stroller and carried my daughter off the train, handing her back to me on the platform. When I looked up to say thank you, to my surprise, it was him again — Joe Biden. I was very dressed down in jeans, a t-shirt and a baseball cap, and I reluctantly reintroduced myself, reminding him where we had met. But before I could finish my sentence, he stopped me and, remembering my work as a reporter, asked me to come work for him in his press office.
He didn’t know my personal history or call references. He didn’t know that I, like so many women, had been struggling with the mental demons carried over from my childhood. None of it mattered, because for the first time in my life, I felt like someone of significance truly saw me. At that time, I did not know that he made an almost daily Amtrak commute to be home with his family after losing his first wife and daughter in a tragic car accident.
When I explained that being on television was my dream job, he asked me to give it a year, and if I wasn’t happy, he would personally help me get back to the news business.
For the next year, I worked in his Delaware office, occasionally traveling to Washington, learning and growing in a way that would set me up for my future successes. He took me under his wing and gave me the guidance, leadership skills, confidence and the personal example I needed to soar in life. Most importantly, he believed in me.
I would like to think I was special but, the truth is, I have watched Biden treat everyone with the same level of attention, care, and concern. Each time he entered a room, he addressed everyone, and got to know them personally. When I accompanied him to an interview on the “Charlie Rose” show, to meetings with dignitaries, and events with Hillary Clinton and Carol Moseley Braun, he introduced me as if I was somebody important, and made sure they, too, took the time to get to know me.
At one point, I considered taking on a second job to help cover the cost of my daughter’s daycare. He gave me a raise instead.
His dedication to making the world a better place and his commitment to standing up for people of color and women was evident with every conversation. To be in his presence was to witness his passion for initiatives he instituted, such as midnight basketball to give inner-city kids a place to be and something to do late at night, to keep them out of harm’s way.
He was so proud of authoring the first Violence Against Women Act after hearing countless personal stories from abused women who were fearful of reporting domestic violence. He made sure that women in abusive situations were supported, and that they had the law behind them to give them the courage to leave.
As fate would have it, I did decide to return to the news a year later, and true to his promise, he and his staff could not have been more supportive. I moved up the broadcast ranks, and a few years later landed a job as a news anchor and reporter in New York City.
Although my time on his staff was short, working for Joe Biden and bearing witness to this incredible teacher, mentor, leader and human being made an indelible impact on the person I am to this day.
I feel like I owe Joe Biden my life. But I’ll start by giving him my vote, and encourage every woman reading this to do the same.