ShareThis Page
Joseph Sabino Mistick

Joseph Sabino Mistick: Biden evokes kinder days at Rooney symposium

| Saturday, March 24, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
Former Vice President Joe Biden greets Patricia Rooney, wife of the late Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, at a Duquesne University symposium honoring Mr. Rooney.
Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
Former Vice President Joe Biden greets Patricia Rooney, wife of the late Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, at a Duquesne University symposium honoring Mr. Rooney.

In normal times, Joe Biden's recent Dan Rooney symposium speech at Duquesne University would have been a routine affair. But these are not normal times.

Every day, the morning news shakes us with the latest political bombshell, some jarring tale of domestic or foreign strife. It might be images of children's lives upended as a father is deported. It could be the constant saber-rattling, military or economic, with our enemies and even our friends. Or breaking news about the slaughter of our children in school, yet again.

And nothing can be agreed upon. People have their own facts, their own preferred cable news outlet, never crossing over to see if there might be some merit to the other side of the story. Chaos is the order of every day.

So, when Biden took the stage in a packed ballroom the day before St. Patrick's Day, some in the crowd could not be blamed for anticipating a podium-pounding stem-winder, or even a bragging reference to Democrat Conor Lamb's victory in a special election days before.

But Biden took another path, never talking politics, calming those in the room who have come to expect rancor and antagonism. He spoke gently, as a dad, a husband and a friend, reminding us of a time when politicians could comfort us, as well as rally us to their battles.

Biden celebrated the life of the late Dan Rooney, former Pittsburgh Steelers chairman and U.S. ambassador to Ireland. He spoke of Rooney's role in 1976 as founder of The Ireland Funds and his dedication to peace, culture and education.

He focused on Rooney's commitment to family, equality for all and his common touch. And he shared a story about the time when the Rooney family comforted his own.

In 1972, Biden's wife and daughter were killed and his two sons were critically injured in a car accident. Biden left the hospital once, to buy a Christmas tree for the boys. When he returned, he found them smiling for the first time since the accident.

Each was holding a football signed by the Steelers and sent by the late Art Rooney Sr. Biden said Rocky Bleier and Franco Harris “spent about an hour with my boys, cheered them up, gave them these footballs and got back on a plane and took off. No publicity.”

“That's all they did, but they did everything. It was the first glimmer of hope that I had,” he said.

After his speech, Biden lingered outside the student union with a small, quiet crowd. He talked softly with one or two folks at a time, never rushing. He put his hand on a few shoulders and touched a cheek or two with the back of his fingers.

As he was climbing into a black SUV, he lingered a moment longer. Everybody was smiling, and one voice in the crowd said, “See ya, Joe.” He nodded his head, smiled back at the crowd, and was gone.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me