Reading This Story About Joe Biden’s Gift from a Grieving 6-Year-Old Will Move You to Tears

Throughout Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign, compassion and empathy have always been key parts of his narrative. On Wednesday evening, Alan Townsend, the Dean and Franke Professor of Forestry & Conservation at the University of Montana, recalled a time when he met Biden, and experienced firsthand the extent of his compassion.



Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Chase Center July 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.


© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Chase Center July 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

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Townsend said that despite his busy schedule as Vice President and not personally knowing who the professor was, Biden took the time to speak with him about his loss.

“No matter what happens, it seems right tonight to share a story about @JoeBiden,” Townsend began the thread, referring to the pending election results. “It was just a brief moment in his life, but it will stay with me always. I’ve told parts of it to some, but all of it to only a very few.”

Townsend noted that Biden lost his son, Beau, after a battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. The professor said he lost his wife to the same cancer. Townsend added that his daughter was battling a brain tumor at the time as well.

“I was working @DukeEnvironment [Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment] at the time (a wonderful place), and not long after Diana died, @joebiden came to visit @DukeU. He was there to listen to and learn from some of the extraordinary cancer docs and researchers at the university. To ask what he could do to help.”

“The @DukeU provost (an exceptional cancer researcher herself) was kind enough to invite me to join a group that would have a chance to meet the then Vice President.” Townsend said he told his daughter about the meeting the day before it happened.

“She asked why Vice President Biden was coming to Duke and I told her that he wanted to help people with cancer,” he recalled, “And I told her that he had lost someone very close to him to the same tumor which took her mom.”

Townsend noted that his daughter was only six years old at the time. “She paused, and then as his her style, wanted to know much more. Eventually she learned Joe Biden had a granddaughter not much older than her. Another little girl who had lost a parent to cancer.

“She was quiet for a time and then said she wanted to write a letter to the Vice President and have it go along with a gift for his granddaughter. I

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