|Vice-President Biden and I, Camp Victory DFAC, 4 July 2009. Photo by J. Berta|
4 July 2009, Camp Liberty, Iraq
My phone rings at my desk, the voice on the other end is friendly, yet direct. "If you'd like to have lunch at the _____ (I forget it's name) DFAC (dining facility), I'd be there no later than 1100."
After assuring it would be cool for me to be out of the legal office for a while, I made damn sure I was early for "lunch."
January 14, 2016, The White House
In what was briefed as a private meeting, Vice President Joe Biden instead walked into a packed room full of friends, colleagues, admirers all. "Chief" (no pun intended, well, on second thought, let's go with a pun) among them was President Obama.
After singing the praises of his partner and loyal Vice President, President Obama, for the last time, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Vice President. I almost missed the story. However, thanks to the Facebook feed, I caught it. Here is The New York Times article.
NPR was generous enough to carry the presentation in its entirety. Here is their story's link. It's 38 minutes, yet it is worth a watch. (And hey, there is an ice storm headed our way, so you'll have plenty of time to check out all these videos prior to and after the Packers game tomorrow.)
It should be noted that not only was the Vice President awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom but it was also "With Distinction." The Veep is in truly elite company with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, and Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, with this additional honor. An honor I will say is well deserved. Here is link to The White House's webpage to learn about the medal and past awardees, 2009-2016.
Here is how the medal is described by President Obama:
"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor—it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."
Needless to say...a big deal. Sorry, I could not resist. This is, after all, vintage Joe Biden.
In all seriousness and with all due respect, I was so thrilled to see our Vice President be awarded this honor. President Obama paid a fitting tribute to his friend and partner, his Vice-President and our Vice-President.
June 9, 1987, Des Moines, Iowa
I am standing in a hotel ballroom. I'm 18 and aside from being excited about getting served at the bar, I was in awe of the man at the podium, speaking. It was Joe Biden, then a Senator and a rising star in Democratic politics. I jumped on the bandwagon as a volunteer and it was a wild, wonderful ride.
It also ended abruptly. After allegations of plagiarism, Biden withdrew from the race before it even began. it was my first political heartbreak. It would not be the last.
The next time I saw Biden was two decades later. The "lunch" invite I had was to meet him, courtesy of his son, Beau. Beau, God rest his soul, was a member of the Delaware National Guard and we had met earlier in the year. I mentioned to him that we had met at his Dad's announcement back in '87. We did not see much of each other in Iraq, yet we did have a few meals together and did work stuff on occasion. He also knew I was a big fan of his Dad. It was him on the phone back on 4 July, inviting me into the event with his Dad. Thanks to Beau, I was able to get the photo that opens up this blog post.
Back to The White House...
If you pull up the NPR video to the 5:50 mark, you will hear President Obama talk about how Vice President Biden's family would inspire and challenge him to deal with the adversities of life. They had a simple message: "Get up!" If there is a mantra of Joe Biden, it may be those two words.
His whole life has been about getting up. He got up at 30 when his wife and baby daughter were killed in a traffic accident and his two young sons were critically injured. He took the oath of office for the U.S. Senate from his sons' hospital bed. He got up after having to exit the presidential race (for something that by today's standards is laughable). He got up after a major health scare. He got up after being denied his party's nomination and faced the reality that his presidential ambitions were done. And he got up when his son Beau died tragically of cancer. All the while, he continued to be true to what he believed and himself.
After he was awarded the medal, The President invited the Vice-President to address the crowd. Although it was clear he had no prepared remarks, he spoke with an eloquent candor. Gone was the confident man of '87, full of ideas and a righteous belief in himself. Instead stood a man who had lived a full life, who had weathered the storms of his life, storms that would have knocked out others for good. He had a perspective that can only come with age...and service.
At one point in his remarks, he quoted the Talmud: "What comes from the heart, enters the heart." Whether one is a fan of the Vice President or not, one cannot deny he is a genuine, decent man. One whom has had much come and enter his heart.
I invite and encourage you to watch this video, courtesy of Elite Daily. It sums up the life that has been lived with love, heartbreak, determination, defeat, resolve, resiliency, joy, laughter, faith, achievement, setback, and above all,...getting back up.
Congratulations Mr. Vice President on this award, well deserved indeed.
Be well my friends,
Author's note: The links to videos and other media is shared with a good-faith assumption sharing is authorized, thank you.