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In Philly, Jill Biden says she doesn’t want her granddaughters fighting same fights ‘we’ve already won’

In the 15-minute speech, Dr. Jill Biden said the campaign has started to restore her faith lost after her son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer.

Jill Biden arrives for a luncheon fundraiser at the Acorn Club in Center City Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. Biden is campaigning for her husband, presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Jill Biden arrives for a luncheon fundraiser at the Acorn Club in Center City Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. Biden is campaigning for her husband, presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday as his wife, Jill, greeted supporters at a women’s club in Rittenhouse Square.

During a fund-raising reception at the ornate Acorn Club, Jill Biden told an audience of about 50 that it was crucial to fight what she called the erosion of women’s rights under President Donald Trump.

“There’s too much at stake," she said. “I don’t want my granddaughters fighting the same fights that I feel like we’ve already won."

Biden, an educator who taught full-time at a community college while serving as second lady, marveled at how far women have come in her lifetime. She recalled that her father had to sign the financing papers for her first car because the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, guaranteeing women the right to credit in their own names, did not pass until 1974.

How campaigning has helped her cope with her son’s death

Last month was the four-year anniversary of their son Beau’s death at age 46 from brain cancer. Biden opened up to the crowd about how that loss had affected her faith. “I’m not very public about my faith,” she said. “But it’s always been something that’s been important to me and … after Beau died I felt betrayed by my faith.”

She recalled leaving the vice president a Post-it note on the mirror during Beau’s illness (the couple often leave notes for each other given their schedules). It was a Kierkegaard quote: “Faith sees best in the dark.”

She compared that personal moment to this political one.

“So many of us have lost our faith in our institutions and in our politicians, and we are living through this moment that’s going to define us, and a moment that we have to choose our path forward," Biden said. "Is it one of division or decency? Or one of optimism or one of fear?”

She said being on the campaign trail with people had started to restore her own faith. Sitting in a Baptist church in Columbia, S.C., last month, she said, a woman beside her reached out to ask to be her “prayer partner.” The weight of the moment — the joy from the choir — affected her.

“For the first time in a long time, I felt there was a path to recovering some of the faith that I lost,” she said. “Of all the things that I expected to find on this campaign, that was not one of them.”

On Joe Biden’s decision to run

Biden, who will be helping with her husband’s third bid for president, said that over the last two years countless people had approached her saying he should run. "They tell me they miss his statesmanship. But not only that, I think they miss his character and his integrity, his dignity, his decency, and actually I feel the same way, too,” she said.

What she wants from the hometown crowd

Biden asked attendees to consider getting involved in the campaign — “not financially” necessarily, but to spread the word to neighbors and friends. Like her husband, Biden has ties to the region. Born in Hammonton, N.J. and mostly raised in Willow Grove, she attended Upper Moreland High School and once waitressed at a New Jersey Shore restaurant.

The suggested donation for the luncheon, a buffet of finger sandwiches and desserts, was $500 per attendee, with a $5,000 price tag for those interested in a private briefing with Biden campaign chairman Steve Ricchetti, according to an email from Comcast executive David L. Cohen to potential contributors. (The campaign would not say how much tickets cost).

On his first official day as a candidate for president, Joe Biden held a $2,800-a-ticket fund-raiser at Cohen’s home in Mount Airy. That resulted in some criticism from challenger Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who suggested such expensive donor events are out of touch with middle-class voters and issues the party should represent.