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Column: The speech I’d like to hear Joe Biden give

  • Contributor Wayne Gersen in West Lebanon, N.H., on April 12, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

For the Valley News
Published: 1/30/2021 10:20:06 PM
Modified: 1/30/2021 10:25:04 PM

I was heartened by President Joe Biden’s speech calling for unity. However, I fear that unity will be elusive as long as we keep rehashing the lies President Donald Trump told, particularly the Big Lie that led to the unlawful invasion of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

I believe that if Joe Biden wants to unify our nation, he should give a national address along these lines:

My fellow Americans,

When I stood on the steps of the Capitol and took the oath of office to serve as president, I swore that to the best of my ability I would preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

After taking that solemn oath, I gave a speech in which I committed my whole soul to the task of “bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation,” and I asked you to join me to help make this possible.

Two weeks before that ceremony, a small group of our fellow Americans unlawfully entered the Capitol. Some of them vandalized the building and broke into locked offices, some stole items, and a handful threatened the lives of elected officials.

Five lives were lost during this upheaval.

All of those who marched on the Capitol did so in response to the baseless lie my predecessor repeated. He encouraged his supporters to gather in Washington to disrupt action by Congress to complete the process of certifying the election results.

In doing so, he placed his desire to retain power over the truth and over the good of this nation.

For the past several days I’ve been pondering the question on how to bring justice to those who subverted the peaceful transfer of power without subverting my overarching goal of unity.

After prayerful deliberation and discussion with my trusted advisers, I have come to the conclusion that the best way forward is to pardon my predecessor, Donald J. Trump.

Let me explain my reasoning for this decision.

The Department of Justice defines a pardon as “an expression of the president’s forgiveness (that is) ordinarily granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime. ... It does not signify innocence.”

To date, my predecessor has not accepted any responsibility for his actions. Based on his history in business and in the office of president, I do not expect him to.

To date, my predecessor not been convicted of any crime, though the Senate has scheduled a trial to determine his guilt or innocence.

In November, though, he was tried by the public at the ballot box, where he was defeated in an election that was conducted fairly and legally. Whether the Senate finds him guilty or innocent of the charges set forth by the House of Representatives, the public has rendered its verdict: I am the 46th president of the United States.

My pardon of Donald Trump does not signify his innocence. He repeatedly made false and divisive statements throughout his term of office, the most egregious being his lies regarding the legitimacy of the election results.

On Jan. 6, he repeated those lies to a crowd he encouraged to gather, a crowd he exhorted to disrupt Congress on his behalf. Because of his lies regarding the 2020 election, Mr. Trump is responsible for the deaths, damage and menacing of elected officials that followed his speech.

And even before his actions on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump attempted to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election by threatening and publicly humiliating election officials in several states. This pardon in no way acquits Mr. Trump of his reckless lies or irresponsible conduct.

I also want to be clear that this pardon is limited only to those charges brought against him in House Resolution 24. The pardon does not apply to any charges brought against him in the future, charges brought in other courts or other pending legal charges.

I grant this pardon with the expectation that debates about the validity of the election are settled and will cease. I realize that the lies my predecessor circulated were repeated and supported by many senators and members of the House of Representatives, and the repetition of those lies deepened the divisions of this country.

In two years, the voters will render their verdict on those House members and several of the senators who repeated or supported the lies of my predecessor. Between then and now, I expect all those elected to Congress will engage in truthful, civil and productive debates, debates that will inform the public of their thinking and improve the well-being of everyone in this country.

Finally, and most important, I want to be clear that this pardon is an expression of my forgiveness of Donald Trump. In forgiving him, I am not accepting his beliefs or condoning his conduct. I am forgiving him to free myself of the anger and resentment that would otherwise cloud my thinking as I strive to bring our nation together.

I urge those of you who support unity over division to do the same. For the good of the nation, I ask you to let go of any anger and resentment you hold for the former president and any anger and resentment you feel for each other. The sooner we let go of our anger and resentment and the sooner our nation puts Trump’s divisive lies behind us, the sooner our nation will heal.

I thank you for your support for my efforts to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and to help restore the United States of America.

Wayne Gersen lives in Etna.

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