President Barack Obama on Saturday paid tribute to Beau Biden as a true “original” in a stirring eulogy for the elder son of Vice President Joe Biden.
Beau Biden, an Iraq War veteran who also served two terms as attorney general of Delaware, died May 30th after a long battle with brain cancer. A bronze star recipient and father of two, Biden was thought to have bright political future and had explored a possible run for governor of Delaware in 2016.
A tearful Obama said Biden did “in 46 years what most of us couldn’t do in 146 – he left nothing in the tank.” The president’s remarks were laced with humor and pathos as he described Beau’s deep admiration for his father (calling him “Joe 2.0” albeit an “upgrade”) and his “broad shoulders” on which he carried his family, friends and constituents for decades.
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“Beau Biden brought to his work a mighty heart, he brought to his family a might heart. What a good man,” Obama said. The president made it clear to all the attendees that the world “noticed” Beau’s efforts to make the lives of others better and urged them to “think about what is because of him.”
The president’s sentiments were echoed by Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, who called Beau Biden “a leader a soldier, and a patriot.” The general championed Beau’s “incredible character” and commitment to a “nation I believed Beau Biden would some day lead.”
Odienro said Biden could be “selfless to a fault” and when he would talk to him about his ambitions, he was humble, telling the general: “Sir I’m just another solider, doing my best and my job to accomplish the mission.”
“I suggest we celebrate Beau’s life by following his legacy,” Odierno said while citing Biden’s legacy of service. “Do this and Beau BIden will leave in each of us and never be forgotten.”
He concluded his remarks by posthumously awarding Beau Biden the Legion of Merit medal.
This is not the first time the Biden family has been struck by tragedy. Shortly after Joe Biden was elected senator in 1972, he lost his wife and infant daughter in a fatal car crash. Beau and his younger brother Hunter were in the vehicle at the time and recouperated after sustaining serious injuries.
Obama spoke in great detail about Beau Biden’s courage in the aftermath of the accident. “Rather than use his childhood trauma as justification for a life of self pity, of self-centeredness,” the president said the young Biden “lived a life for others.” The president listed several accomplishments of Beau’s as public official – from fighting for homeowners and seniors to combating bullying. He even carried a notebook with him to “write down the problems of every person” he met.
“He was the consummate public servant,” Obama said, while acknowledging that Beau Biden had inspired all of us to be a better father, brother and man. “He made you want to be a better person,” the president said.
“In this reality TV age, especially in today’s politics if you’re loud enough or controversial enough you can get some attention. But to make that name mean something, to have it associated with dignity and integrity is rare,” said a choked up Obama.
The elder Biden son gained national prominence after his powerful introduction of his father at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. In his speech Beau Biden paid tribute to his father’s sacrifice in the wake of the sudden death of his mother and sister.
“As a single parent, he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he’d travel to and from Washington, four hours a day,” Beau Biden said in his convention speech.
A estimate 1,000-plus mourners gathered to pay homage to Beau Biden, including Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, who volunteered to sing at the funeral after learning that Beau had been a fan. Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many other prominent political figures were also in attendance.
Beau Biden’s political aspirations were mentioned frequently but his “character” was the more consistent theme of speakers like his younger brother Hunter who said his first memory was “lying in a hospital bed next to my brother,” following their mother’s car crash in 1972.
“Holding my hand staring into my eyes, saying I love you, I love you, I love you over and over and over again,” Hunter Biden said. “In the 42 years since he never stopped holding my hand – he never stopped telling me just how much he loves me.”
“Beau’s was the hand everyone reached for in their time of need,” he added, explaining later that the family called him “the sheriff” because they all knew if they were ever in trouble they “all could turn to Beau.”
His sister Ashley Biden said it was impossible to talk about Beau without talking about Hunter and the “unconditional” love they shared as brothers. She spoke affectionately about her older brother’s compassion and ability to put her at ease with his sense of humor. “He was out protector, our mediator, the captain of our lives,” she said.
“We will see you everywhere we go in the beauty of nature, in the smile from strangers, and in your beautiful children who we will take care of like you took care of all of us,” she added in her remarks.
Obama also spoke candidly of his love and affection for the Biden family, of which he said his wife and kids had become “honorary members.” “Joe, you are my brother. I’m grateful everyday that you’ve got such a big heart,” Obama told the vice president. “I couldn’t admire you more.” And he said through tears, that our country was built by “men like Beau.”