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Why Jill Biden thinks the U.S. ‘cannot wait’ for her husband to be president

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, is among his closest advisors and an integral voice in his process of choosing a running mate. Her book “Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself,” first published in 2019, was issued in paperback Tuesday. Dr. Biden joins Judy Woodruff to discuss healing from heartbreak and why her husband would make a good president.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to announce soon who he wants as his running mate.

    And the person undoubtedly closest to the candidate's decision-making is his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

    Her book "Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself, " first published in 2019, it is out in paperback today.

    And she joins me now.

    Dr. Biden, thank you so much for talking with us.

    So, we're going to leave everybody in suspense about the vice president for a few minutes. We're going to start by talking about your book.

    It's very personal. You write about being 24 years old when you met Joe Biden. You married him two years later. He was already a United States senator with two children. He had lost his first wife and another child. You were coming out of your own marriage. You describe how daunting it was.

    How did you do it?

  • Jill Biden:

    When I met Joe, I — you know, I was hesitant at first to — he asked me five times to marry him.

    And — but it wasn't just my heart, really, that was on the line. I — like you said, he had lost his wife and daughter. And I fell in love with the boys. But I had to make sure that this marriage was going to work.

    I mean, it — they had already lost a mother and a sister, and they could not lose a mother through divorce. So, I said yes, finally, and here we are 43 years later.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you write in the book about the highs and the lows, the heartaches, including especially the death of your son Beau five years ago from brain cancer.

    I was struck, Dr. Biden. You wrote in the book. You said — this was last year, when the book came out. You said you lost your faith, but you hoped that you could salvage it at some day in the future.

    Have you been able to salvage it since?

  • Jill Biden:

    You know, I have.

    Something remarkable happened to me. We were on the campaign trail last summer in South Carolina, and we were visiting a church, the Sunday service.

    And during the service, a woman came up to me, and we were in the front pew, and she put her hand on me. And she said: "Dr. Biden, I want to be your prayer partner." And I thought: Prayer partner? I had never heard of prayer partner.

    And so we got in touch. We pray together. We text one another a couple of times a week. And after five years, she gave me back my faith. It was so remarkable.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You write in the book, also, about how teaching is central to who you are. You have made a career of it over the many years. You were the first second lady of the United States to work full-time while your husband was vice president.

    You said some years ago that you wanted to teach if he were elected president. Do you still want to do that?

  • Jill Biden:

    I would love to do it.

    I'm hoping that, if I have the honor of being first lady, that I can continue to teach. So, that's one of the things I'm really looking forward to.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Education, it's so important to you, and it's a huge problem during this pandemic, right now, schools, parents families agonizing over what to do.

    You have said the health of the children and the teachers should be foremost. But, at the same time, you know very well not having an education can be very damaging, especially for young or children with disabilities. How does that get resolved?

  • Jill Biden:

    I say we have to listen to the experts and find out — and the doctors — and only return to school when it is safe to return to school.

    But I think what this pandemic has done, it has shown the inequity in education. And so many areas of our country don't have broadband. So many kids don't have laptops or computers. They don't have Internet.

    And so we need to fix that. And this hopefully gives us the opportunity, I think, moving into our next administration, where Joe, that's part of his plan. I mean, he's already working on a strategy, an education strategy, so that all children can begin their education at universal pre-K, pre-kindergarten, starting at age 3.

    We have to address the inequities in our system. And my husband, Joe, is prepared to do that. And, Judy, I'm going to be right behind him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about the fall campaign.

    Do you expect at this point to be out traveling, actually meeting with voters with your husband? And how concerned are you? There is a preexisting condition. Your husband had — suffered aneurysms back a few decades ago, and just the virus out there.

  • Jill Biden:

    We would love to be out on the road. We would love to be. Joe is, like, the best campaigner ever.

    And — but we're going to listen to the doctors. And if they say it's not safe to go out, we won't go out.

    But, listen, Judy, I mean, look at what we're doing today. I mean, we are talking — Joe and I are meeting with thousands of Americans every day through Zoom and through these virtual meetings. And it hasn't stopped. It's just like we're on the trail.

    And Joe keeps going and going. I mean, he has so much energy. And he was very young. He was — gosh, he was 45 years old when he had his aneurysm. And he — he's — he recovered, and hasn't had a problem since.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The campaign, as I'm sure you know, is already one of the most, if not the most polarized in history. It's down and dirty.

    The names that are being thrown around, President Trump has already called your husband corrupt, crazy, mentally shot, the most extreme left-wing candidate ever.

    This is going to be one for the history books. How do you get prepared for that, because it is going to be personal? It is personal.

  • Jill Biden:

    It is personal, but you know what, Judy? We knew what we were getting into. We knew who Donald Trump was.

    And when we made our decision, Joe and I looked at one another, and I said: "Joe, we have been through the absolute worst thing that could happen to two people, and that is the loss of a child."

    I said: "So, Donald Trump, whatever he throws at us, we can take it, because nothing, I mean — and nothing has — is sticking to Joe, because the American people know Joe. They know his character. He's been in politics. They know his decency and his resilience and, quite frankly, his leadership style.

    And I think that's what's going to make the difference in the election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what about when President Trump goes after your husband for his cognitive ability? How does Joe Biden assure the American people that he is prepared?

  • Jill Biden:

    For Trump to be saying that my husband is not up to the job is just ridiculous.

    And I think Joe has proven — he's been on the debate stage. You have seen him. I don't think Joe has anything really to prove to the American people, because people see him. They see him daily. They know him. They know his plans. They know his strategies.

    And I think people cannot wait for a Joe Biden presidency.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just a couple of other things.

    Back to the vice presidential selection. You told a reporter today that you're getting close, your husband is getting close. How involved are you in this decision?

  • Jill Biden:

    It's a marriage, and he bounces things off of me. I bounce things off of him. Of course we talk about it.

    And — but it's ultimately Joe's decision. When Joe was in the White House with Barack Obama, they had a true friendship. I would say they — it even developed into a love for one another.

    And our families are very close. And I think Joe is going to be looking for the woman who shares the same values that he shares. And I think that's what he had with Barack Obama, and that's what he's looking for.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We know that, and we assume he shares values with all the women who are — made the cut, are down to the final short list.

    But give us a sense of special qualities that you and he are looking for.

  • Jill Biden:

    Well, I think that it's really important that — trust is important to us, and I guess experience, wisdom, the things you would want someone — he needs a partner in governing and someone who knows has to govern and has the experience.

    So, I love all the — I mean, the women that are candidates now, each and every one of them would bring something really special and unique to the ticket. So it's been really hard to look at each one and think, oh, my gosh, wouldn't she be wonderful, or wouldn't she be wonderful? It's a really tough choice, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm happy for you to give us a clue.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jill Biden:

    I know.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jill Biden:

    I can tell you it's going to be a woman.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last thing.

    It was just last March when were you on a stage with your husband in Los Angeles, and you physically stopped two people from jumping up. You body-blocked them from getting close to your husband.

    So, my question is, has the Secret Service deputized you?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jill Biden:

    You know, the men and women of the Secret Service are so great. I would be honored to join their ranks.

    But I have to tell you, Joe was giving a speech. He had no idea what was happening behind him. I happened to turn around and see people charging up the steps.

    And, you know, Judy, I didn't even think about it. I just turned and put out my hands to stop them, because I had no idea what they were going to do. And I think, as a mother, as a wife, it's just instinct that you — that that's how you react.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will be looking for you to do it again on the campaign trail or virtually.

    Dr. Jill Biden, thank you very much.

    The book is "Where the Light Enters."

    Thank you.

  • Jill Biden:

    Thanks, Judy.

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