“Let Us Bend the Arc of History”

Joe Biden, September 19, 2023 at the UN General Assembly


In a keynote address to world leaders today, Joseph R. Biden Jr. propounded fundamental messages about democratic values and the necessity for common purpose and cooperation – including to support Ukraine in its fight for survival.

Heck, I would have walked with Joe Biden.

General Counsel & Executive Director Dan Galpern

And yet, in my view, it was Biden’s increasingly compelling demeanor that most impressed. Indeed, our first octogenarian President’s delivery matured as it progressed, rising from competent (if hesitant), to commanding (if not sonorous).

This is important. Biden’s handlers – so timorous, nearly feckless – fear any gaffe, but they are just making Joe nervous. That is worse than stupid. Biden’s smarter than them, and if by shackling the President these professional worrywarts handlers stifle Joe’s gut instinct and undermine his receptivity to new ideas – particularly on climate – they will be doing us all an enormous disservice.

Thought experiment: What if President Biden had walked with me on Sunday, in the March to End Fossil Fuels. Here’s what we’d have seen (all photos here are by me) and what we’d likely have said to one another (using first names for brevity):

Invest In Our Future

Joe: Damn straight.

Dan: Yup.

Make Polluters Pay

Joe: We should do that.

Dan: Yeah, but let’s make ‘em pay to clean up their mess.

Joe: Can we do that?

Dan: Damn straight Joe. You got the power.

Joe: You’re pretty sure of that? If so, then let’s talk.

Dan: Any time, Joe, day or night.

Biden: Our Future is On Fire

Joe: I know it man. In fact, I’ll tell it to the world on Tuesday.

Dan: Good, do it Joe.

[Editor’s note: And, in fact, he did.]

The Oceans Are Rising and So Are We

Joe: Right man, right.

Dan: We’ll set the record on this ten days from now, Joe, with a People’s Hearing on Climate Action.

Joe: Good, man. Just keep me, and EPA, in the loop on that one.

Dan: You bet Joe, you bet.

Biden: Declare a Climate Emergency

Joe: Hell, that’s just what I’ve done, man.

Dan: Not really, Joe, not yet.

Put a Price on Carbon

Joe: What the hell: Ol’ Joe Manchin has blocked Congress every which way till Tuesday on that.

Dan: But Joe, there’s another way. Didn’t you get our petition and letter on that?

We Can’t Work in a Wildfire; We Can’t Work in a Heat Wave; We Can’t Work in a Flood

Joe: Yup. Damn right.

Dan: Time to get serious, Mr. President.

Joe: I know it, man, sh**, don’t I know it.

The Doctor is In: 100% Clean Energy Is Good for You

Joe: Man. Was that guy a real Doc?

Dan: What guy?

Joe: The guy in the scrubs.

Dan: Damn right, Joe. Look, you’ve got the doctors, you’ve got nurses: can’t we make something happen, big time, on climate?

Joe: Tell me more, man, tell me more.

Protect Health: End Fossil Fuels

Joe: Man, I just can’t do it all.

Dan: But we’ve got your back, Joe, we’ve got your back.

Climate Change and Nuclear War: We Must Prevent What We Can’t Cure

Joe: True enough, man, but what about all this IRA money on carbon drawdown?

Dan: It can help a little, Joe, but only a little, and only on the margin.

Joe: But Big Oil claims that carbon removal buys us decades more time. Is that all B***S***?

Dan: ‘Fraid so, Joe, 98.5% B***S***. Don’t buy it.

Joe: Damn.

Scientists to Biden: End Fossil Fuels

Joe: Is she a real scientist?

Dan: Yup, she’s a biologist, in fact.

This Old Fossil Wants to End Fossil Fuels Now

Joe: Hmmph. Man, that guy’s as old as the hills.

Dan: Age is just a number, Joe.

Joe: Don’t I know it.

Stretch Banner Showing Rising Ambient Temperature on Earth (cool blue through hot red) Since 1850, Carried by Fifty Brandeis University Environment Studies Students

Joe: Pretty cool, man.

Dan: Yup.

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