President Obama awards Biden the Medal of Freedom President Barack Obama laughs with Vice President Joe Biden during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Obama presented Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Obama awards Biden the Medal of Freedom
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At the dusk of both of their political careers, surrounded by teary friends and family, President Barack Obama has bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Joe Biden, the man he called "the finest vice president we have ever seen."
 
The vice president winced in shock as Obama announced he was conferring the nation's highest civil honor on his right-hand-man for eight years. Biden turned away from the cameras, wiped away some tears, then stood stoically as Obama draped the blue-and-white ribbon around his neck.
 
"I just hope that the asterisk in history that is attached to my name when they talk about this presidency is that I can say I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country," Biden said.
 
There were several standing ovations at what had been billed as a modest farewell ceremony Jan. 12 for Biden. But it evolved into a surprise bestowal of the Medal of Freedom, the last time Obama will present the honor.
 
"I had no idea," Biden said of the award, insisting he didn't deserve it.
 
It was the only time Obama has presented the medal "with distinction," also awarded only once by each of the previous three presidents.
 
One week out from the Obama administration's end, a deep sense of nostalgia set in at the White House as longtime staffers pack up their offices, send out their last emails and bid farewell to the president they've served.
 
Obama, joined by his wife and daughters, was effusive in his praise for Biden, who ran against him in 2008, then agreed to be his running mate. He said Biden had made him a better president, calling him "a lion of American history."
 
"To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard and to live life fully," Obama said.
 
The famously plainspoken Biden has long said he only agreed to the job after Obama agreed he would be the last person in the room before major decisions were made. Over two terms, they developed a bond that both men said transcended the office, with their wives, children and Biden's grandchildren becoming close friends.
 
They disagreed, too, on occasion, including when Biden advocated against the high-stakes raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Biden's tendency to veer off-script caused occasional headaches for the White House, such as when he unexpectedly announced support for gay marriage in advance of the 2012 re-election, forcing Obama to do the same soon after.
 
Yet as they gathered for a final goodbye, none of that seemed on either man's mind.
 
Obama said there had been "no turf wars between our staffs," a departure from other recent administrations. And Biden told the story of how after his son Beau Biden died in 2015, leaving behind a wife and children, Obama was distraught when Biden said he might sell his house to help support them, and offered to give them money instead.
 
It was a reunion for the many staffers and colleagues who worked with Biden over the years. Joining Biden's wife, sister and children in the State Dining Room were former Sens. Chris Dodd and Ted Kaufman, former chief of staff Bruce Reed, and even Biden's White House physician.
 
Obama traced the history of Biden's nearly half-century-long political career, from chairing the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees to the "cancer moonshot" effort to end cancer that he started recently and plans to continue. Obama praised his vice president for his work on the economic stimulus, middle-class issues and curbing violence against women.
 
Biden's career in Washington started in 1972 steeped in tragedy when his wife and infant daughter died in a car crash just before he was to be sworn in as U.S. senator. After exiting the national stage next week, he plans to stay active in Democratic politics and work on policy issues at a pair of institutes he's developing at the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What did President Obama mean by calling Vice President Biden “a lion of American history?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (22)
  • jarrod-war
    1/19/2017 - 10:13 a.m.

    During the presidency of Obama Joseph R. Biden JR was a brother and friend to Obama and all of America from helping cancer research to stopping the corruption act on American monuments. In the speech Obama even said himself "to know Joe Biden is to know love without meaning'. when Obama said "A lion of American history" it meant he has the strength and courage to lead American if need be.

  • connor2-war
    1/19/2017 - 12:09 p.m.

    I find it a cool thing to be the lucky one who gets a reward that each president only gives one time because there is so many people in the world but he ended up being the lucky one who got the medal in the end so that is a pretty neat achievement to get form the president. if I got a medal like that I would probably just walk away and say that I am done and that I give up.

  • andrew17-war
    1/19/2017 - 12:10 p.m.

    During Obama's presidency Joe Biden was Obama's vice president and a friend to Obama. Biden was in charge of many things while being Vice President. This is a very great honor that Joe Biden has earned.

  • colton-war
    1/19/2017 - 12:13 p.m.

    I think that it is a decision made by the president that was a good thing to do in his mind. The president and Biden have been in work together for 8 years which is a long time and he did some good things and I guess the president thought that he deserved the medal. Both Biden and Obama have helped each other a one time or another and that is good, but why was he given the medal now instead of when he did them?

  • jacob13-war
    1/19/2017 - 12:16 p.m.

    President Obama meant that Joe Biden has made a change in history forever, and will be remembered for it. Obama also says this because he believes that Biden did remarkable things for this country.

  • daltons1-ste
    1/19/2017 - 12:41 p.m.

    Biden has been one of the most loved vice Presidents our nation has ever seen. This makes it even better when he humbly accepts this medal. Joe will be remembered for serving as a meme lord and as a vice President.

  • piersonw-cel
    1/20/2017 - 10:39 a.m.

    He meant that Vice President Biden made him a better president throughout his 8 years in office.

  • kaileew-ste
    1/20/2017 - 11:22 a.m.

    Barrack Obama presented Joe Biden with the Medal of Freedom. Biden insisted several times that he didn't deserve it but he was so happy to be the right-hand-man of Obama for the past eight years. This is a really exciting honor for Biden.

  • zakrym-ste
    1/20/2017 - 12:41 p.m.

    This is pretty cool because they are leaving the office and biden and obama did alot for this country. I think he deserves it. he called him a lion of american history

  • monicas-ste
    1/20/2017 - 02:10 p.m.

    This is really cool. I'm necessarily sure that he needed this but the memes for this were really funny. I do enjoy seeing this.

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