On December 13, 1995, then Senator Joe Biden spoke in front of the U.S. Senate during a debate on whether to send U.S. troops to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his 20-minute speech, Sen. Biden exemplified what a true leader should be. He criticized any current or proposed policy that would endanger people’s lives and called on the U.S. government to understand its role as the world’s largest democracy, a model for other nations, and a nation that fights injustice anywhere and everywhere around the world. Then, as now, Joe Biden fought for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and identified the horrors that were being allowed to take place in Bosnia by its proper term, genocide.
I was only four years old when Sen. Biden delivered that speech in 1995. His words reverberated in the Senate chamber only months after my family and I had been among the lucky few to escape the genocide in Srebrenica. Twenty-four years later, I now call the U.S home, both as a refugee and as a U.S. citizen. I watched Sen. Biden’s 1995 speech only a few years ago. I had a heartfelt, visceral response in now knowing that when we were on the other side of the world facing genocide, there was someone out there fighting for us. Sen. Biden was fighting for us even when he didn’t know us — he did this because he knew right from wrong and took action.
Sen. Biden’s fight for persecuted people has never ceased and he continues to be a champion for justice and on the right side of history. His leadership can be seen through his tenure as a Senator, then later as Vice President, and now as a Presidential candidate. After leaving the White House, VP Biden’s first public speech was in Washington D.C at the invitation of the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACBH). Here VP Biden received the ACBH Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts in stopping genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his speech that evening, VP Biden reiterated his continuous fight for persecuted people, his commitment to bring justice to all victims in the Bosnian genocide and his fight to ensure that its victims will not be forgotten. He memorably stated, “there’s nothing that I have been prouder of than my association with the effort to end the genocide in Bosnia.”
Today our world faces a number of old threats. Now, as then, VP Biden understands how to fight not only for the people here in our country, but also for those around the world. As international institutions and democratic norms are under constant attack in the U.S and around the world, VP Biden is again stepping up to the plate to do what he knows best, fight for people.
On August 7, 2019, VP Biden delivered a speech on the Battle for the Soul of Our Nation. Fittingly, VP Biden delivered this speech in Iowa, a place far from Bosnia, but not unbeknownst to Bosnian-Americans. Today, Iowa is home to close to 20,000 Bosnian refugees, who are now proud Bosnian-Americans. In his speech VP Biden said, “America is an idea. It’s an idea stronger than any army. Bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth.” We Bosnian-Americans are now a part of this idea. We find ourselves in a unique position because we have seen what hate and discrimination can lead to. That is why we’re the ones who need to be on the frontlines of this fight against hate, division, and dangerous rhetoric.
VP Biden’s idea for our country is to move forward, not to retroactively plunge us into an age of divisiveness, something that we have seen happen in our nation over the last couple years during the Trump administration. In his speech, VP Biden went further to add, “The American creed — that we are all created equal — was written long-ago. But its genius is that every generation of American has opened it wider and wider, to include those who have been excluded before.” Bosnian-Americans are beneficiaries of this wider America, opened to us by Americans, and now it is our time to give back. We need to ensure that the same opportunities that we had when we came here are afforded to others. No American should be afraid because of the way they look, because of what they’re wearing, because of how they speak or where and how they pray. Those that may look or sound “different” should not be told to go back to “their” country. Their country is America. VP Biden understands this and is going to continue to fight for this idea of a wider, stronger America with everything that he has as he has demonstrated time and time again. But he will need our help.
The Bosnian-American community is a success story that has spread throughout the nation, from Iowa, to Missouri, Illinois, Idaho, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Georgia, among others. The Bosnian-American community has produced success stories of those who have immensely contributed to the U.S., by serving our nation overseas, keeping our streets safe, providing education, and owning business which have created jobs and contributed to the U.S. economy. The Bosnian-American community has been able to accomplish these feats because of the opportunities that were made available to us all and because of this second chance that we have received. But now, others who are looking to accomplish the same things that we wanted, including, having a healthy family, thriving by contributing innovative ideas, and working hard to make our way in this country, are being rejected and denied that same opportunity. Children are being ripped away from their mothers and fathers, extremists are being equated with fighters for justice and peace, and we can no longer walk into a mass gathering without fear of someone showing up with a military assault rifle.
When the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina felt as if no one was paying attention, that the world had forgotten and turned its back on us, we can be sure there was at least one person who cared and fought for us. That person’s name is Joseph R. Biden, and today he is running to be the President of the United States of America, the nation that gave thousands of Bosnians refuge, safety, and opportunity to once again have a prosperous future for themselves and their families.
VP Biden has made it clear time and time again that he will not rest until our nation is back on its feet, and this showcases that he is the best person to lead our country. VP Biden will fight for us, our community, and our nation to ensure our children will have a prosperous future and we need to support him.
Written by: Elvir Klempic