Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a short fictional story in the 1800’s about a mythical figure called the gray champion. The basic gist of the story is that a town of settlers is about to be overrun, and right when they need him, an old man (the gray champion) appears and inspires the people with courage. I think Joe Biden is America’s gray champion in 2020.
Setting the Stage
The gray champion only comes along when his people need him the most. He seems to show up at the last minute, to inspire and uplift the people. He (or she) himself doesn’t need to fight the battle, he just needs to inspire. The gray champion joins people together to fight a common enemy.
Joe Biden has stated numerous times that we are in a battle for “the soul of the nation”. His rallying cry is for us to unite to face the crises of a fragile democracy, the coronavirus pandemic, rising income and wealth inequality, and climate change. He says again and again that he is a “bridge”. This means that he himself will fight the battle only as much as he can rally and spur on the right people.
At a time of maximum threat and danger, the gray champion appears “out of nowhere” to bring people together and inspire them. Joe Biden has been a consistent, but not necessarily influential political figure for decades. What he sees is his chance to remind America of what we could be if we rise to and overcome our current challenges. In contrast, Donald Trump represents “business as usual”, even when it is clear it isn’t working for the majority of people anymore.
From, and Back to Nowhere
One of the main criticisms of Joe Biden’s campaign is that it lacks the fiery, cult-like nature of Donald Trump’s campaign. But therein lies the appeal. Joe Biden is not saying he will fix our problems, but rather we will do it together. One of the most encouraging things I heard Joe Biden say was in an interview with Andrew Yang. Joe praised Andrew Yang, and in turn, Yang said he was excited for Joe Biden to lead America. In that moment, Joe Biden interrupted Yang and said “we will lead together”.
The gray champion appears out of nowhere and returns back when his job is complete. America’s most recent gray champion, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, appeared on the political scene to a nation in crisis. FDR mostly fulfilled his purpose, passing not long before the end of World War 2. Similarly, Joe Biden is advanced in age, but he is coming to a deeply divided America with a vision for a better future. He isn’t coming with an oversized ego, but rather to lift up our best and brightest to tackle the challenges of our time.
Although it is a fictional story, the gray champion provides us with a narrative that every organization (family, country, business, civic, etc.) in a crisis needs a leader to come and bring people together and inspire them to search for higher ground. No one can tell the future, but a Biden presidency has the unique opportunity to revive that cooperative spirit we have long lost as a nation.