President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden during a surprise event on Thursday.
A very emotional Joe Biden turned around and burst into tears as Obama made the announcement in front of White House staff in the State Dining Room.
The President injected plenty of humor into his speech honoring the Vice President, as he gave a very heartfelt speech praising Biden. “Folks don’t just feel like they know Joe, the politician, they feel like they know Joe, the person. He makes us laugh, what he believes, what he cares about … pretty much every time he speaks, he treats us to some wisdom from the nuns who taught him in grade school or an old senate colleague, and of course, the most frequently cited Catherine and Joe, Sr., his parents,” the President said.
The President cited some of the quotes from the Vice President from his father, and spoke about Biden’s ability to connect to ordinary citizens from all walks of life.
“This also gives the internet one last chance to talk about our bromance,” Obama joked. “This has been quite a ride.” Obama also called Biden “the best vice president America has ever had,” in large part because of his ability to give him unvarnished advice about some of the biggest decisions he’s had to make.
The President said that he was bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor on his vice president “for your faith in your fellow Americans, for you love of country, and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations.”
The award caught Biden and most everyone else by surprise as it was announced just hours before and only as a final tribute for the Vice President. The medal had not been mentioned.
With tears still in his eyes and his voice quivering, Biden took the lectern and declared that he “had no inkling” he was receiving the award. He gave the President praise, among other things, saying that no one has the same “integrity, and decency, and sense of other people’s needs” as the President.
“This honor is not only well Beyond what I deserve, but it is a reflection of the extent and generosity of your spirit,” Biden said to Obama. “I don’t deserve this, but I know it came from the president’s heart.”
The award was a sign of the deep, personal bond the two leaders formed during their eight years together in the White House.
Obama gave the medal to Biden “with distinction,” an honor given only to three other individuals: Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Colin Powell.
Biden is the third vice president to receive the medal, which was created by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The others are Nelson Rockefeller, and Hubert Humphrey, who received his award posthumously.