When Joe Biden Gives Handshakes and Hugs, He Also Gives Comfort

“I’ll never forget the first time Joe Biden got a little close. Not long after joining his 2008 campaign for president, I found myself on a small plane with him traveling from a town in Iowa to O’Hare International Airport. Just as the plane started taxiing, he grabbed hold of my arm and became very animated.” M. Steinfels, CNN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Joe Biden- 2020. NBC News

Excerpt: When Joe Biden grabbed my arm … he was trying to help me, By Marion Steinfels, CNN

“I was caught off guard and, honestly, maybe a little uncomfortable for a moment. He told me a story of a time in high school when he was supposed to go to a big dance. His shirt needed cuff links, but he had none. He was devastated until his mother ran to the toolbox and got two nuts and bolts that would do the job.

The Obamas and Bidens share a happy moment. Zimbio

As the plane hit its cruising altitude, what was happening became clear. Someone had told him about my terrible fear of flying, and he was trying to distract and reassure me and, in a way that did not make me feel condescended to or silly for having such a fear. That is who Joe Biden is…It’s also who his family is. His wife, Jill, would tear out articles on conquering fear of flying and share them with me to help defuse my angst. His niece and sister, who also worked on the campaign, would have us over for a home-cooked meal after weeks on the road.

The gunman’s bullets that killed three law enforcement officers in BatonRouge .apnews.com

While I am not questioning anyone else’s experiences with Biden — and at times it may have caused discomfort — there is no doubt in my mind that his penchant for showing affection has absolutely nothing to do with him not respecting a woman’s agency over her own body…Do a quick internet image search of ‘Obama Biden’ and then ‘Bush Cheney,’ and it will show clearly: Biden’s affectionate style is far from limited to women.

On Obama’s last birthday in office, Biden delivered him a birthday message that called Obama a best friend forever. businessinsider.com

There are countless images of Biden and Obama’s brotherly bear hugs, clasped hands and close-in whispers. (The same search of Bush and Cheney could not tell a more different story.)

In this era of #MeToo, when we are finally free to share our experiences and stories and no longer be the ones to feel shame for what was done to us, it is incredibly important that we differentiate.

Vice President Joe Biden kisses his wife, Jill Biden, before he addresses the troops. CTPost


With Biden, it is not about objectifying women or asserting male dominance; it’s about doing what he can to encourage others and make them feel comfortable — especially in stressful and overwhelming situations.”


ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities: Predictions Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. I was caught off guard.
  2. He was devastated by the death of his son.
  3. Biden was trying to distract me.
  4. Some people have a penchant for showing affection.
  5. Biden’s affectionate style  is far from limited to women.
  6. There are countless images of Biden and Obama’s brotherly bear hugs.
  7. With Biden, it is not about objectifying women.
  8. He does what he can to encourage others.
  9. My experiences tell me he is sincere in this commitment.
  10. Joe Biden is willing to listen to his critics and learn from them.


Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. His shirt needed cuff links.
  2. His mother got two nut and bolt.
  3. As the plane hit its cruising altitude I was calm.



  1. Someone had told him about my terrible fear to flying.
  2. I was driving by myself through a snowstorm.
  3. It’s just who he is.


  1. In this era of #MeToo, when we are free to share our experiences.
  2. It is incredible important that we differentiate.
  3. Biden is not asserting male dominance.

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

In the___ of an incredibly ___primary ___for president, Joe Biden was always ___of those around ___and their___. I saw it throughout the ___and, quite frankly, sometimes it made___a little crazy.

WORD LIST:  me, campaign, him, campaign, aware, needs, midst, tough,


Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. From everything you’ve read, how would you describe Joe Biden?
  2. In your opinion is Joe Biden doing anything incorrect by hugging women or men?  Explain why or why not.
  3. In many countries showing affection upon meeting people is normal. Do you think this country has different standards about greeting people?
  4. If you are from a different country, describe how people greet family, friends and strangers.
  5. What is Marion Steinfels’s (the author of this article) point of view about Joe Biden?  Why do you think she wrote this particular article at this time? 
  6. With your group compose 3 questions you would like to ask Joe Biden or Ms. Steinfel. Share questions as a class.


Category: Culture, Political Issues | Tags: