Biden’s small gesture speaks volumes

President's grace and understanding in the midst of tragedy helps transcend political divide.



July 7, 2021 - 10:09 AM

President Joe Biden speaks alongside Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, right, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis about the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo on July 1, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

The president called it “remarkable.” And, with just a touch of his hand, he showed us what “remarkable” really meant.

President Joe Biden came to Florida on Thursday, Surfside, specifically, to see for himself the incredible aftermath of an unimaginable event — the collapse of the Champlain Towers South. During his time in the small, stunned town, he listened to family members’ stories that were riddled with pain, bewilderment, resignation.

He had empathetic and encouraging words for first responders.

He called “remarkable” the cooperation between local, state and federal agencies, all working together to find all the victims of the collapse and — in the longer term — find out why this structure fell.

After almost 18 months of a highly politicized response — or maybe non-response — to the deadly coronavirus, in this state and others across the nation, it is breathtaking to see Florida’s Republican Gov. DeSantis standing shoulder to shoulder with political rival, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz one day, and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on another — both Democrats.

But a photo of our governor, sitting next to our president who, as he talks to local leaders, lightly places his hand on DeSantis arm, is the most moving of all.

It’s an unconscious and uninhibited show of a shared humanity. It’s a natural, but still remarkable, gesture that we hope will set tone for the challenging steps ahead.