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Joe Biden delivered the Chauvin verdict speech America needed

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President Joe Biden addressed the nation hours after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of killing George Floyd. In his remarks, Biden said there was much work to do still and that the verdict could be a moment of significant change.

Posted: Apr 22, 2021 5:51 AM
Updated: Apr 22, 2021 5:51 AM

Here's what you are not going to get in a major address from President Joseph Biden: textured rhetoric woven with references to the classics; eloquent, poetic phraseology ringing like heavenly music and leaving its listeners with echoes of Shakespeare, Lincoln and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Here's what you are going to get in a major address from Biden: a torrent of phrases, some of them carefully clipped like a neighbor's hedge, most of them rolling and gushing like a river, all of them aimed not at the gut in the manner of his immediate predecessor, but directly towards the heart, whether to soothe or to rouse, keeping at bay any haste or incaution.

The speech that Biden gave after a Minneapolis jury convicted ex-police officer Derek Chauvin on all three charges in the murder of George Floyd decision was no different from any number of speeches Biden has given throughout his five decades in public life: so emotional, anecdotal and plain-spoken that it seemed more off-the-cuff than it likely was.

In short, it wasn't a "presidential" address to the nation so much as it was a "Joe" talk to the folks. All the folks.

More to the point, it was a "Joe" talk that in its dual expressions of relief and resolve was well-suited to engage a verdict that, however logical and inevitable it may have seemed given the evidence and testimony leading up to it, took many people by surprise, especially African Americans whose expectations for justice in the violent, often deadly use of excessive police force against unarmed Black people have been perpetually thwarted in court.

Biden promised in his election campaign last year that he'd help change things. So far, he's been doing so in his unfettered manner. And in phoning George Floyd's family almost immediately after the verdict -- and before appearing before the cameras to deliver his address -- the president submitted proof that it wasn't about scoring political points, but in sharing and healing others' intimate pain.

When Biden spoke about the emotional connection he'd made with Floyd's young daughter, even to the point of repeating and concurring with what she'd said to her father, "Daddy, you changed the world," the unapologetic blatancy of appeal to the heartstrings somehow made him seem more sincere, more human -- and humane. More, if you will, "Joe."

Consider also the wonder of a 78-year-old White president of the United States not only mentioning the words, "systemic racism," but insisting that it be purged once and for all from American life. Among many things, it made you wonder whether this perspective was energized by the blatant and not-so-blatant bigotry directed against the first African American president during the eight years Biden served as Barack Obama's vice president.

Wherever and however it came, Biden's willingness to talk about reforming the police and restoring Black America's confidence in the judicial process was an unmistakable marker of how much things had changed.

If there was one moment in Biden's remarks that seemed discordant and untethered to their moment, it came in his insistence on lawful, nonviolent protest and his condemnation of violence in demonstrations aroused by the deaths of Floyd and others.

Since the prospects for violent reaction were considerably lessened by the jury's decision, you wondered why there was a need at that particular time for such warnings.

It sounded as though the President's expression of relief was interrupted by part of another, altogether different address he'd expected to deliver last night if things had gone the other way. Or it could also have been Biden's way of nodding towards police departments and their supporters, signaling that whatever reforms he sought in policing, he wasn't going to interfere with the proper and judicious enforcement of the law. Keep in mind, again, that the President has spent almost 50 years finessing his way with both sides of the congressional aisle.

Remember, too, as both Biden and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison insisted yesterday evening in the verdict's wake, that however welcome the news was of Chauvin's conviction, it was only a beginning.

They're right. But it's a different beginning than whatever we've been used to up till now.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 764448

Reported Deaths: 13965
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1049701803
Lake567981029
Allen42685698
St. Joseph37253568
Hamilton37131426
Elkhart29699470
Tippecanoe23347230
Vanderburgh23106404
Porter19538327
Johnson18755391
Hendricks18012321
Madison13463345
Clark13450198
Vigo12789255
LaPorte12533224
Monroe12494178
Delaware11100198
Howard10612237
Kosciusko9736123
Hancock8707149
Bartholomew8235157
Warrick8031157
Floyd7975181
Grant7337181
Wayne7222201
Boone7145105
Morgan6886142
Marshall6323116
Dubois6267118
Cass6083111
Dearborn598578
Noble595790
Henry5939111
Jackson514677
Shelby509097
Lawrence4901127
Gibson460696
Montgomery454492
Clinton453555
DeKalb451585
Harrison450576
Whitley414745
Huntington411781
Steuben409560
Miami404073
Jasper399455
Knox387091
Putnam383762
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Jefferson340486
White338954
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Posey280435
Scott278058
LaGrange276972
Clay273048
Washington252437
Randolph247083
Jennings238149
Spencer237531
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Starke229859
Owen221059
Sullivan219043
Fulton207645
Jay202832
Carroll196522
Orange190556
Perry189139
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Franklin171635
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Blackford137832
Pulaski122948
Newton122436
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Brown105743
Crawford105116
Martin92515
Warren87615
Switzerland8308
Union73510
Ohio58211
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1120922

Reported Deaths: 20467
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1300711493
Cuyahoga1169882259
Hamilton822191259
Montgomery533351059
Summit487911014
Lucas43688832
Butler39879614
Stark33752937
Lorain25937509
Warren24850312
Mahoning22663612
Lake21429396
Clermont20338260
Delaware19088138
Licking16820227
Trumbull16744491
Fairfield16735207
Medina15800276
Greene15468254
Clark14325308
Portage13391218
Wood13327201
Allen12026245
Richland11707213
Miami10976228
Wayne9238227
Columbiana9182236
Muskingum9114137
Pickaway8729123
Tuscarawas8706254
Marion8691140
Erie8109166
Ashtabula7264179
Hancock7039134
Ross7004165
Geauga6939153
Scioto6636108
Belmont6203179
Lawrence5905104
Union590049
Jefferson5718162
Huron5622122
Sandusky5467130
Darke5436130
Seneca5373128
Washington5352111
Athens526260
Auglaize506787
Mercer490285
Shelby480497
Knox4603112
Madison446966
Ashland441898
Defiance438099
Fulton435275
Putnam4349104
Crawford4103111
Brown408862
Preble3940107
Logan391479
Clinton387966
Ottawa374981
Highland364668
Williams355478
Champaign347560
Guernsey329554
Jackson321154
Perry298050
Morrow294543
Fayette287950
Hardin278865
Henry276967
Holmes2725102
Coshocton272461
Van Wert251465
Gallia248450
Adams247758
Pike244537
Wyandot235257
Hocking221763
Carroll200349
Paulding179342
Meigs150740
Noble137639
Monroe137445
Harrison115038
Morgan111524
Vinton87117
Unassigned03
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