In many ways, Joe Biden begins his presidency in the strangest of possible times. His Election Day victory led to months of baseless disputes about election fraud and culminated in a violent attack on the Capitol that left five people dead.
Now, however, Joe and Jill Biden are settling into life as normal in the White House. But what does “normal” look like in this strange new world? The president and first lady recently opened up about their “surreal” life in their first post-inauguration interview with People.
Looking on the bright side
One of the cuter revelations from the interview is that Joe Biden is definitely a glass half-full kind of guy. This was evident when Biden began discussing problems that the country was currently facing.
Without missing a beat, Biden responded, “We have problems, but we also have enormous opportunities.” But he is clear on the fact that this comes during a time in which “the American people sort of had the blinders ripped off.”
You can’t begin recovering from something until you acknowledge there is a problem. And Joe Biden seems optimistic that Americans, when confronted with major problems in their country, will choose to make the best of things.
A return to the classroom
Jill Biden’s greatest passion in the world (besides her husband Joe) is education. She continued teaching the entire time Joe Biden was vice president and in the years afterward. And Joe becoming president has not halted her love of teaching.
During the interview, Jill Biden said, “I teach writing. I taught all eight years that I was second lady. That’s my passion, that’s my life.” At this point, Joe Biden chimed in to praise his wife and discuss the unique nature of her community college students.
“The thing that surprises me is how much energy Jill gets from her students. The students she teaches, these are foreign students or people who weren’t the people who graduated from high school, but they’re remaking their lives.”
Biden finds this very moving and shared with People, “It’s an inspiration. It’s energy for Jill, but it’s a lot of work.”
While Joe finds inspiration in Jill, however, she has found another source of inspiration!
A major part of moving into the White House is making the space feel a bit more like your own home. And Jill Biden has found a simple way to do this: by focusing on her gardening.
Speaking about the White House garden, she remarked, “The garden is going strong!”
Of course, this is old news to those who follow politicians on social media. Recently, Michelle Obama used Instagram to show off a vegetable basket that was a gift from the Bidens and their growing garden.
You can go home again
At one point, the interviewer asked a pretty simple question: “Is the White House starting to feel like home?” And Joe Biden offered an unexpected response: “It’s surreal… but it’s comfortable.”
Why “surreal,” though? As Joe explains, “We were here for eight years, just not in this part of the residence. Spent a lot of time in the Cabinet Room and the Oval with the president.”
But living in the private family quarters upstairs “is new,” Joe said.
And Jill was quick to praise White House staff in helping make the place feel comfortable and inviting. “The residence staff has been so great, trying to make it feel like home for us. We have family pictures all around, our books, some furniture we brought from home.”
Of course, making the place feel like home is more about their things. It’s also about their relationship.
The secret to successful marriage
While much of the interview focused on settling into the White House, some of it concerned the relationship between Joe and Jill Biden. And their responses show a couple that is very much in love and has mastered the secrets of a successful marriage.
When the interviewer asked how they keep their own marriage from crumbling due to stress, Joe said, “Everybody says marriage is 50/50. Well, sometimes you have to be 70/30. Thank God that when I’m really down, she steps in, and when she’s really down, I’m able to step in.”
Joe also thinks the fact that the couple has their own sets of priorities keeps the relationship strong. “It’s important that she has the things that she cares a great deal about, her independence. And yet we share each other’s dreams.”
As for Jill, she thinks the pressures have simply made them a stronger couple. “All that we’ve been through together — the highs, the lows and certainly tragedy and loss — there’s that quote that says sometimes you become stronger in the fractured places. That’s what we try to achieve.”
While he doesn’t always discuss it, one of the most important things in Joe Biden’s life is his faith as a Roman Catholic. Eventually, the interviewer asked if Joe leans into prayer when it comes to leading the nation through things like the pandemic and the economic crisis.
Joe ended up discussing both the role of his faith and how it guides his life. “I don’t want to proselytize. My religion, for me, is a safe place. I never miss mass, because I can be alone.”
Sometimes, his faith intersects with how he and his wife communicate. Joe told the interviewer that when Jill has a unique way of sending him important messages. ”When she wants me to get a real message, she tapes it on the mirror above the sink where I shave.”
One such message is a simple quote from Kierkegaard: “Faith sees best in the dark.”
For Joe, this is a perfect description of his life as a man of faith. “Other people may meditate. For me, prayer gives me hope, and it centers me.”