Strength, courage cornerstones of Jill Biden’s message at YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh gala

April 16, 2018 GMT

In the darkest times of her life, the most courageous thing Dr. Jill Biden learned was to lean on others.

One of those periods was when her son Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III was battling brain cancer.

“I know that darkness,” said Biden, wife of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. “For over a year I watched my brave, strong, funny, bright, young son endure chemotherapy and operation after operation, but I never gave up hope. ... As a mother, you can’t. I had to be strong for my children and my husband Joe, but most of all my son Beau. In the middle of it all, he was strong for all of us. Every day, I put one foot in front of the other. I found out what matters most in life is how well you walk through the fire. We often don’t know what’s behind someone’s smile and how much they need our strength. We lead by what we do, not what we say. In the darkest times of my life, I learned the most courageous thing we can do is lean on each other.”

That was one message of her keynote speech at the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh’s 150th anniversary gala on April 13 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Pittsburgh. The evening celebrated the organization’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. The YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh has been a leader in developing educational opportunities for women, challenging civil rights issues and providing services that allow women to create a fulfilling life.

“We are delighted to have Jill Biden here because of her history of empowering women,” said past YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh board president Peggy Harris. “With her visibility and work in empowering women, she truly represents the YWCA’s mission.”

LaJuana Fuller, president, board of directors, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh said “having Jill Biden here validates the work we do and shows it’s important.”

The YWCA’s programs serve more than 700,000 women, children and families every year.

“It’s almost indescribable having Jill Biden here,” said Magdeline Jensen, chief executive officer, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh. “She emphasizes what the YWCA stands for.”

Biden is more than the wife of a former vice president. She is a mother and grandmother, a lifelong educator (she has a doctorate in education and two master’s degrees), a proud military mom and an active member in her community. Jill and Joe Biden launched the Biden Foundation, a commitment to strengthening the middle class, protecting women and children against violence and supporting community colleges and military families. Jill Biden applauded the service of a table of special guests — female military members and their families. One of the first efforts of the YWCA was helping families of Civil War veterans.

“We spent a lot of time as a family at a YWCA in Delaware at swimming lessons and exercise classes,” said Biden to the nearly 500 guests and added she is originally from Philadelphia, and is a Flyers fan. “That made a difference in our lives. The women in this room inspire us to keep doing the work. I believe communities like Pittsburgh are leading the way. You are constructing a better future.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.