Biden is my Taylor Swift. And I saw him live

Is witnessing history worth your time?


Jack Evans

President Joe Biden speaks in Warsaw ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Photo by Jack Evans, ‘25

Jack Evans, Staff Writer

How often does one get to see their own president, in person, in a foreign country?
That thought is what convinced me to skip class and catch the fastest train from Krakow to Warsaw the day of President Biden’s official speech at the Royal Castle in Poland. This was honestly the most unique experience of my life so far. In this article, I’d like to share with you what it is like to see the Commander-in-Chief abroad, and my impressions from his speech.
I remember watching Biden’s last speech to Poland on TV at my uncle’s home in Pennsylvania. It was just a month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred. Biden’s words were powerful and salient; many considered that speech to be the best speech of his presidency. Surely, we all recall the remark he made about Vladimir Putin, saying, “this man cannot remain in power.” I feel slightly embarrassed to admit this, but I had the cliché thought, “I wish I could’ve been there.”
This semester, I was fortunate enough to be studying at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland when Biden announced his visit to Warsaw. This was it! I was going to witness history. I told everyone I knew that I was going to Warsaw to see the President. I’ll admit it, I was excited!
I felt like a 16-year-old girl on her way to see the political, octogenarian version of Taylor Swift. I know it’s never good to idolize a politician, but I let myself indulge – just this once.
When I arrived at the Royal Castle, I learned of the bad part of going to a presidential speech abroad: waiting. Over the next few hours, the crowd poured in, news reporters did interviews that strategically had me just outside of the frame, and I tested my camera so I would get a good shot at the president. Of course, I wish I hadn’t mumbled those exact words, as two Polish girls behind me mockingly cried, “Security! Security!” Word to the wise, don’t mention shooting and the president in the same sentence, no matter the context.
I was surprised to see how gleeful all the faces were around me. Not a soul in the crowd looked like they were going to call Biden “Sleepy Joe.” We were all out in the cold for hours, and yet everyone looked so delighted to be herded together by pushy Secret Service agents. I began to wonder if I had accidentally gone to a T Swift concert.

A white haired man in a suit smiles towards a group of children waving American and Ukrainian flags. A large Ukrainian flag is behind him.
President Biden greets children holding American and Ukrainian flags at his presidential speech in Warsaw, Poland. Photo by Jack Evans, ’25 (Jack Evans)

About a half hour before Biden was supposed to speak, we heard an announcer come over the intercom to say the sweet, sweet phrase, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…Mark Brzezinski!” Of course, it made perfect sense for the Ambassador to Poland to make a speech, but being the opening act is a thankless gig. You could feel the slight disappointment of the crowd. However – and I will go to my grave with this opinion – he delivered the best speech of the night. He spoke of the “immense gratitude” he felt toward Poland for aiding Ukrainians, lauded Poles for standing against Russia’s tyranny, and emphasized the critical role Poland played as “NATO’s eastern flank.” I thought the speech was excellent and deserves more press than it received.
Immediately following Brzezinski’s speech was a speaker that caught me a bit by surprise: Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland. At a speech about freedom and overcoming oppression, seeing Duda was like smelling roses and getting hit with a whiff of cigarette smoke. I cannot give my opinion of his speech as it was entirely in Polish, but I can say the crowd did not receive him with nearly as much applause as President Biden. Given that the crowd came to see the leader of America’s left wing, it makes perfect sense that Duda, a man who passed controversial and discriminatory legislation and was formerly affiliated with the far-right Law and Justice Party, would not be received particularly well. In keeping with my comparison of Biden to Taylor Swift, Duda would be Kanye.
Finally, several minutes after the start time, it happened. The announcer welcomed Joe Biden. The crowd erupted into cheering and applause, and the press leaned over themselves trying to get a good shot of Biden. For a man in his eighties, Biden swaggered on the stage with confidence, stopping and posing for photos with flawless ease as he made his way to the podium.

I swelled with anticipation as Biden gripped the sides of his podium. “Hello Poland,” he exclaimed, sending the crowd into exuberant applause. I was about to witness history, not from my uncle’s mediocre TV, but with my own eyes.
But, as Biden made his speech, I had a terrible realization. Turns out, he’s exactly like Taylor Swift – he just re-releases the same old content. Don’t get me wrong! Biden’s speech made all the right points and his mere presence in Poland – and even more so in Kyiv the day prior – showed the world that America, NATO, and the democracies of the world all stand on the same position: Ukraine must stay free. In that sense, Biden’s speech was excellent. But I had high expectations for Biden. He was standing at the same venue where he had made his goosebump-inducing speech just under a year prior. I couldn’t help but compare the speeches. I hate to be so critical of a speech with the most noble intentions – especially one that made Putin so insecure he had to host a rival speech the same day – but it felt like the knock-off version of the speech Biden made last year; It had all the same major ingredients, but there was something that was simply missing.
I was disappointed. I had come all this way and felt like I just heard a poor rehashing of last year’s speech. However, as Biden walked away from the podium to pose for a few photos, I realized I was the only one present that seemed to feel that way. Everyone around me was absolutely enchanted with President Biden. They waved their flags – whether it be the Polish, American, or Ukrainian flag – as vigorously as ever. Perhaps they had remembered something I had forgotten: President Biden is not an entertainer; he’s a leader. It doesn’t matter how well-written his speech was. What matters is that the leader of the free world was willing to stand in a place far closer to the Kremlin than the White House, and remain strong in his – and the world’s – resolve to not tolerate Putin’s vicious invasion.
Maybe that’s why Biden’s speech this February sounded so similar to his speech in March; a year of war later and Putin has failed to change America’s position on the fundamental value of freedom. For this reason, I say that even though it didn’t meet my initial expectations, I am proud to have attended Biden’s speech in Warsaw, and even prouder to say that I finally fulfilled my wish of being “there.”