In the latest episode of the Small Talk podcast series from journalism nonprofit iMEdD, journalist, iMEdD Managing Director, and SNF Dialogues Executive Director, Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou sat down with Valerie Biden Owens during the Biden Institute Chair’s first visit to Greece, where she was invited to SNF Nostos Health 2022 by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Biden Owens spoke, among other things, about political campaigns, the role of media, what it was like growing up as the little sister of the current president of the United States, and the inequalities highlighted by the pandemic.
On the polarization that dominates sociopolitical dynamics worldwide, Biden Owens commented that it is a symptom caused by the feeling that much of humanity is lagging behind on a multitude of social, political, racial, and environmental issues. In any case polarization has put democracy—a global, universal idea—in question. Speaking to Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou, she said, “If we do not work together to preserve it, it will abandon us.”
Her long career in communication, as well as her deep knowledge of the way the media works, gave rise to a very interesting discussion on the crucial role of media in the functioning of modern, democratic societies, emphasizing the value of freedom of the press. Regarding the widespread lack of trust in the media, which will be a central topic of discussion at the International Journalism Week organized by iMEdD this October for the journalism community, Biden Owens commented that it is the responsibility of the press to meet the high expectations of the public, and the responsibility of journalists to do their best to report the truth.
Biden Owens also mentioned the value of public discourse, which the SNF Ithaca Initiative at the University of Delaware’s Biden institute was designed to help foster, cultivating the fundamental skills and habits that contribute to robust civic engagement and civil discourse.
The discussion wouldn’t have been complete without touching on the issue of women’s empowerment, with Biden Owens having led campaigns in the 1970s, when such a thing was unthinkable for a woman. She stressed that a woman can do anything a man can do and that we all need to work together—women and men have the same abilities but can have differing approaches to various issues.
They talked lastly about her book Growing up Biden, about coming up as the younger sister of Joe Biden, the current president of the United States. She said that in writing it, she focused on the “magic of the family” and on human emotions. Despite the fact that her family history includes tragedy, she believes that adversity helps build character. “Sometimes you learn more through adversity than through victories,” she commented, and then talked about her relationship with her brother, President Joe Biden, their childhood, and how they influenced each other as they grew up.
*iMEdD is a nonprofit organization based in Athens established in 2018 with exclusive support from SNF. Its mission is to support and promote transparency, credibility, independence, and excellence in journalism.