There wasn’t much to say about the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The lowest point may have been when Trump went after Biden’s son Hunter and his addiction struggles. There are legitimate questions to be asked about Hunter Biden and his international dealings, but addiction is not the issue to raise on a national stage. How many people have often hidden struggles they are too ashamed to ask for help for? Moments like that only make things worse.
This year, with all the necessary social distancing, the annual Al Smith Dinner — hosted by the archbishop of New York — didn’t happen as usual.
In a normal year, the dinner brings presidential candidates and some New York glitterati together in an overcrowded ballroom, to put aside bitter partisanship for some good-humored fellowship in honor of Smith, the first Roman Catholic candidate for president. Despite the challenges this year, the event did manage to transpire with its usual spirit.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden sent video messages — both of which drove me a little batty at times (I can’t listen to Biden talk about Catholic social teaching’s influence on his life when he’s as radical as they come these days on abortion, and he has the capital in his party to moderate its position if he cared to; Trump’s bombast was as unpleasant as ever). But the beautiful part is always the prayer. Cardinal Timothy Dolan got Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to pray privately with him together last time around. This time, I prayed for some national healing as Cardinal Dolan called upon God’s grace for two broken hearts — Joe Biden who lost a son and Donald Trump, who recently lost his brother. It was a reminder in all the disagreements that we’re dealing with human beings.
Amy Coney Barrett seems to understand that point. Her focus on giving tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her remarks at the announcement of her nomination for Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court was the right, human thing to do. A woman has died. She had family who are mourning. The flags were at half-staff. This is about more than a political nuclear war.
Barrett’s announcement was a beautiful moment in America, if we can put politics aside for a moment. She’s a woman of faith who takes it seriously. She’s excelled in her career and is lauded by colleagues, students and teachers.
I’ve heard young women say they were personally inspired to see her on the national stage, and to see a marriage and family represented so beautifully. That she has adopted children, too, I think is such a blessing to the nation. Vulnerable children so often go unseen. They are even more hidden during the ongoing pandemic. In the beauty of the Barrett family, we see the promise of our future, we see the best of America — hospitality and generosity.
How can you care for vulnerable children in your community? Not everyone is going to adopt a child — or two — from Haiti. But what can we do to support those who do, for instance? We all have a role to play in carrying out the promise of America, living up to the ideals of this country’s founding and the potential that still exists in its example, even in this somewhat benighted national climate. These are all questions and ideas that should be on our minds. Let’s not make everything about this presidential election that so many of us are glued to. And let’s pray for one another, whether or not we agree with one another.