Jill Biden meets North Carolina working parents in virtual roundtable


This article was originally published by The Chronicle at Duke University and is republished here as part of the One Vote North Carolina student media collaboration. Copyright by The Chronicle.

Jill Biden swung by a swing state in a Thursday virtual roundtable event for North Carolina working parents.

Educator and former Second Lady Jill Biden gave remarks and emphasized aspects of her husband Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on a panel with four Triangle-area parents, sponsored by the Biden-Harris campaign. The discussion, moderated by N.C. State Senator Jay Chaudhuri, centered primarily on education during the coronavirus pandemic and how each family was handling challenges.

One is challenge was maintaining the emotional wellbeing of children during remote learning.

Monika Johnson-Hostler, executive director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said that investing in her 15-year-old’s mental health was “a huge success for [the] entire family.”

Johnson-Hostler said helping children through mental health crises was “on the top of our list,” to which Biden responded that mental health was also “on the top of Joe’s list.” She then elaborated on her husband’s education plan, which includes increasing the number of school psychologists and sociologists to meet the needs of students and instructors.

John Verdejo, a Raleigh city employee, told Biden that “a whole lot of things” kept him up at night with regard to the long-term effects of the pandemic on his two sons, ages four and five.

“It’s going to sound simple, but [it’s] the thought that at this young age, the first thing that they’re going to remember when they grow older are people walking around with face masks,” he said. “I don’t want them to grow up thinking that everything they touch is going to make them sick.”

Andrew Jones, Parent-Teacher Association president for Joyner Elementary School in Durham, said that it was “stressful” to maintain learning for his kids at home.

“Notice I didn’t say it’s impossible, because my family is lucky to be able to deal with the situation with technology problems [and] other needs that we might have,” Jones said. “There are so many people that are not. And honestly, from a community school standpoint, that’s what worries me.”

Jones said his family’s focus has shifted from academics to “how to be a good person,” such as “dealing with stress with grace and flexibility” and allowing mistakes from oneself and others.

“During this time, I just hope that other kids, especially in our schools and also across the country have a little more support going forward, and I know that that’s a priority of the Biden-Harris campaign,” he said.

While each parent’s experience varied, one phrase that recurred throughout the panel was “a new status quo.”

“We’re going to have to make big changes to the status quo, because [COVID-19] has shined a bright light on the systemic inequities in our education system,” Biden said. She also told panelists that the best policies came from parents—not politics.

Educator Chrishele Marshall expressed her hopes that the Biden-Harris campaign would establish policies that “speak to the needs of working families” and allow for flexibility in the workplace beyond education.

“Teaching children at home and doing work is a new type of demand,” Marshall said.

Biden emphasized the campaign’s focus on expanding child care for working parents and addressing other inequities such as broadband access and adequate access to technology for children.

At the end of the panel, Biden encouraged viewers to check their voter registrations and make plans to vote, such as offering to drive people to the polls. She also implored people to volunteer and talk to their loved ones about why the election matters to them.

“This election is too consequential for you to sit out,” Biden said.

B.J. Rudell, field organizer for the Biden-Harris campaign and former associate director of the Duke’s Polis: Center for Politics, gave closing remarks.

“While some fights are worth fighting, some battles must be fought,” he said of his decision to organize for the 2020 election.