DERRY — A snowy, slow moving afternoon didn’t put a damper on the spirits of a crowd at the Tupelo Music Hall Monday afternoon, waiting to hear what the former vice president of the United States had to say.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden arrived at the local music hall and was encircled by a crowd that had patiently waited for about an hour for his arrival.
For Biden, it was all about getting the message out about honesty, integrity and how he hoped he would be elected to the nation’s top office to restore respect and honor.
The 77-year-old started off by saying he had specific reasons for wanting to win the presidency.
That included restoring what he called “the soul of America.”
Those words drew a standing ovation from those attending, including many families who brought younger children to hear the potential future president speak.
Biden’s hour-long chat covered many topics from healthcare, to education, to gun control. The candidate got up close to the crowd, spiraling around to speak to all sides. He also gave a personal look at some of his own history and experience, saying he was only 29 when elected to the U.S. Senate, and how many he worked with both Republicans and Democrats, many who viewed the young senator as an optimist.
“I’m more optimistic now than I’ve been in my whole life,” he said.
That means, if elected, he said America could return to being the optimistic, respectful nation it deserves to be, and that would also reinforce the views of the country’s allies and strengthen those relationships again.
“But if you don’t want optimistic, I’m not your guy,” he said.
Biden fielded several questions from the audience, including one from an 11-year-old boy asking the candidate what he would do about the National Rifle Association and if he planned to “break” it apart.
Biden told the boy he wanted to make gun safety a priority.
“So young men like you, when you show up on the first day of school don’t have to learn to duck and cover,” he said.
Biden offered a few comments on the making of America, how the nation was formed by those who came here from other places to find a new life. He said he supported a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
“We are a people who have heart, courage,” he said. “We just never give up, that’s being America.”
Biden laid out details of what he hoped to accomplish if elected to the Oval Office next November, including stronger measures to support teachers pay, and hiring more social workers and psychologists in schools to support children in earlier grades so they can have better opportunity to thrive and succeed.
“It will give them a chance to be in the game,” Biden said.
Biden also stressed he had released 21 years of his tax returns, in addition to his health records and said the current president should do the same.
One man in the audience asked Biden how he says in such good shape to which the candidate replied, “I’ve been lucky.”
“It’s totally a legitimate thing to ask me about my health and my age,” Biden said. “But anything can happen tomorrow to anyone. But thank God, so far so good. You can make the judgement.”
Biden ended the visit by giving one final call to change the nation and restore civility and respect.
“Folks, there is so much we can do, but we have to start treating people with respect,” he said.
That includes, if elected, bridging distances and gaps that currently exist in Washington between political parties.
“It’s not just Trump,” he said. “The world is changing rapidly. We’ve got to start talking to each other again. We’ve got to start getting back to being America again.”
He also encouraged the crowd to get involved and volunteer to support his candidacy.
“We only have 43 days left until the New Hampshire primary,” Biden said. “We can’t do this without you.”
Prior to leaving, Biden spent time greeting those attending, standing in the center of a tight crowd moving closer to shake his hand and take photos.
Many said they appreciated Biden’s honesty, and caring way of dealing with people.
“We come from an unbiased place,” said Manuela Sevilla-Connelly, attending the rally with her family while visiting relatives in Chester.
Sevilla-Connelly said she liked Biden’s manner, and his own personal stories that related to others.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “He’s so down to earth, so willing to connect.”
Others said they were hoping to hear as many candidates as possible as they pass through the Granite State.
“I try to get to as many as I can,” said Jen Lague of Derry. “It’s all about being educated, so why not?”