There are times in our nation’s history when people are called upon to perform duties or undertake tasks that are vitally important, but sometimes undesired. For generations, young men and women have answered the call to serve in our armed forces. Most recently, nurses, doctors and many others have battled our ongoing pandemic with valor and great sacrifice.
Today, Americans must call upon one person to answer a national call to duty because her country critically needs her to help put us on a path to healing a broken nation and restoring trust in our elected leaders.
We collectively must implore a reluctant Michelle Obama to make herself available to join Joe Biden’s ticket as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee. Let me explain why.
On top of a global pandemic, our cities now are facing massive unrest, violence and destruction, and threats to the social order, arising from yet another series of horrific killings of unarmed African-American men and women by the police — and all built upon decades of racial injustice and inequality.
The current occupant of the White House lacks what we need most right now — calm, thoughtful and principled leadership that can exhibit understanding, compassion and empathy for those who have been ignored and suffering for too long and are now seeking justice. Instead, he seems capable only of inflaming dissension and causing strife.
We need a person who can join Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, in showing us a transformative path forward as one people. We need a leader who, with her grace, compassion and humility, can bring people together to help them heal and reconcile with each other.
We need a person who will help Biden seek genuine reform, not just in the criminal justice arena but on the environment, health care and education.
We need a person who knows about how partnerships work, someone with exceptional credentials and devoid of political ambitions.
Obama is that person if she will accept the mantle of civic duty and personal sacrifice that our nation so desperately needs from her.
Biden and Obama would be truly formidable and, I submit, unbeatable running mates in November. She would bring energy, wisdom and passion for righteousness to the ticket. Can’t you just envision, even if mail-in voting is available, the long lines of voters of all races standing 6 feet apart to vote in the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix and so many other places throughout our country, all waiting patiently to cast their ballots for hope and healing in the most important election in their lifetimes?
We need a Biden-Obama Electoral College victory to be so decisive in November that the current occupant of the White House would have absolutely no excuse to try to contest the election’s outcome.
The election of Biden and Obama, however, would be just the first step on the long road to changing our country’s culture and values to more fully achieve a just society for all. Each of us has our own role to play in that process, starting first with voting this fall, but then with individual actions.
For my part, I will continue to seek positive changes by teaching future lawyers in the classroom and online. Given the horrible and senseless death of George Floyd and all the subsequent events of the last week, I am called to do this now more than ever.
It angers my soul and breaks my heart to see how George Floyd was horrifically killed, pleading and gasping for air as he was being restrained by a person sworn to protect him. I moved to Minnesota in the mid-1980s and lived in Minneapolis suburbs for more than 25 years. I served as a federal prosecutor in Minnesota for most of that time.
For the past 12 years I have taught criminal-law-related courses at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. This August I will be co-teaching a new course there that could not be more needed right now: Restorative Justice, Law and Healing. The course will expose students to the prevalence of inequality, bias and prejudice in our justice system. They will read “Just Mercy,” the inspiring story of Bryan Stevenson’s landmark efforts to combat racial injustice in the South.
Our students will hear from women and men of color who will come to share their stories of facing and overcoming racial prejudice, and seeking justice for all, so we might learn from their example.
These are the some of small steps that we can take as educators to open eyes, minds and hearts.
Our country obviously needs much greater steps by our elected leaders. I can only hope and pray that come next January 2021, our nation will have the opportunity to have Joe Biden and Michelle Obama lead us forward.
Hank Shea is a senior distinguished fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.