Joe Biden's response to a protester demonstrates the true power of empathy.

He may not know exactly what that protester was feeling, but he tried to understand.

While out campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Joe Biden was met with every politician's worst nightmare: protesters.

Or, rather, in this case, one very vocal protester. While the vice president was highlighting the differences between the proposed Clinton tax policy and the one put forward by the Trump campaign, he was peppered with shouts from the audience about a very different (but very important issue): U.S. foreign policy.

"My friend died," the protester, who calls himself Reinas, shouted.


"So did my son," responded Biden.

Last year, Joe Biden's son Beau died of brain cancer at the age of 46. A member of the Delaware National Guard, Beau Biden served a tour in Iraq.

"I respect Biden’s son and everything he did. But I was a bit confused as to the relevance to the conversation," Reinas told The Guardian. "I am not against the Obama administration and I respect Joe Biden. After hearing what he said, I think maybe he means well, but it was evident that he hasn’t been briefed on the situation in Syria."

And he has a point. Beau Biden did not die in the war itself. And maybe that makes his retort imperfect. Even so, it gets at a deeper human issue: empathy. Reinas knows what it's like to experience the loss of someone close to him. So does Joe Biden. So do many of us.

Vice President Joe Biden with his son, U.S. Army Capt. Beau Biden at Camp Victory in Baghdad in 2009. Photo by Khalid Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images.

The crowd tried to drown out the interruption with cheers of "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!" but the vice president told Reinas that he would get a chance to speak later.

"Come back after and talk to me about this. OK? You have my permission," said Biden.

And while it seems the two were unable to connect afterward due to scheduling issues, Reinas did get his phone number into the hands of one of Biden's Secret Service agents.

"At first they toyed with the idea of my meeting Biden, but in the end I was told that he didn’t have time for me," he told the Guardian. "So I offered my phone number, so that Joe Biden could contact me. I’m still waiting."

Responding well to criticism can be tricky, especially in the heat of the moment.

Invoking the heartbreaking memory of his dead son — an issue many believe directly led to Biden's decision not to run for president in 2016 — could not have been easy. But in that moment, it was necessary in order to convey that Biden, too, understood loss.

Joe Biden and his son Beau during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

Perhaps it'd have been easier to let the crowd drown out the protests. Perhaps it'd have been easier to instruct security to remove Reinas from the venue. It's a whole lot harder to open yourself up to your own personal pain and be willing to have a real conversation with a complete stranger, especially one who disagrees with you so vehemently.

Though Reinas and Biden didn't get the chance to have that one-on-one conversation just yet, their exchange stands as an admirable example of how empathy can help bridge the gaps between one another.

More
via Twitter / Soraya

There is a strange right-wing logic that suggests when minorities fight for equal rights it's somehow a threat to the rights already held by those in the majority or who hold power.

Like when the Black Lives Matter movement started, many on the right claimed that fighting for black people to be treated equally somehow meant that other people's lives were not as valuable, leading to the short-lived All Lives Matter movement.

This same "oppressed majority" logic is behind the new Straight Pride movement which made headlines in August after its march through the streets of Boston.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

For most of us, the hypothetical question of whether we would stick with a boyfriend or girlfriend through the trials of cancer and the treatments is just that – a hypothetical question. We would like to think we would do the right thing, but when Max Allegretti got the chance to put his money where mouth is, he didn't hesitate for a second.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular