On American Promise book tour, Biden discusses his memoir, late son

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Jacob Wasserman/THE REVIEW
Biden discusses his memoir and his son, Beau.

BY
Senior Reporter

In his book, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose”, former Vice President Joe Biden writes about his life’s most grief-stricken year. In 2015, the university alumus’ eldest son, Beau Biden, passed away of brain cancer in 2015 — an event that had a major effect on his father’s decision to not seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

As part of his American Promise Tour, Joe Biden, as one would expect, made a stop at his alma mater — the very place where his career in politics began. Mike Donilon, managing director of the Biden Institute, and Valerie Biden Owens, sister and former campaign manager to Joe Biden and the vice chair of the Biden Institute, delivered introductions before Joe Biden took the stage, during which she emphasized the importance and effect of home.

Joe Biden was joined onstage by Lea Carpenter, an author and close friend of Beau Biden, who moderated the discussion. Carpenter brought the discussion to Beau Biden, telling of how she was given a “WWBD (What Would Beau Do)” bracelet after his passing. She said that the bracelet was especially significant because of how she and all of their mutual friends frequently relied on Beau Biden’s moral compass.

Carpenter also spoke of Beau Biden’s sense of humor. She shared a story about how Beau Biden had bought a copy of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” for his good friend, Michael Hoffman. Inside, in an inscription, he wrote to Hoffman, “The kid on the cover reminds me of you.”

Joe Biden also shared a story that highlighted Beau Biden’s wit. His story began on a family vacation to Big Sky in Montana, a trip that occurred while he was still vice president. They walked past a group of people jumping off of a bridge into some water. One of Joe Biden’s grandchildren said, “Hey, my pop can do that.”

Joe Biden then happily demonstrated, jumping into the water. One of the members of the group then did a flip into the water off of the bridge. As Joe Biden was preparing to follow with his own flip into the water, he heard a growling voice sternly saying, “Get down, Dad.”

“The Secret Service wants you down, Dad,” Beau Biden continued. Joe Biden obliged at that point, yielding to his son as a voice of reason.

Joe Biden said that Beau Biden felt obligated to join the military after the United States went to war in Iraq, and he joined the Delaware National Guard. At the time, Beau Biden was the attorney general for the State of Delaware, so a lot of extra paperwork and effort was required for him to deploy, but he did it anyway.

The former vice president said that deploying to Iraq was definitely Beau Biden’s proudest moment, and that his son saw it as a matter of duty. His experience with his fellow servicemembers in Iraq gave him a new passion: helping members of the military readjust to civilian life after returning home.

Joe Biden said that, in the situation of having a family member deployed, “little things make an enormous difference.” An example of a little thing is having the neighbors shovel snow so they did not have to, or helping out with the kids. Joe Biden said that one of Beau Biden’s neighbors actually did shovel snow for his wife and frequently watched his children while he was deployed.

The discussion then shifted to the Biden family’s faith. It was pointed out that Joe Biden wears his son’s Rosary bracelet to always keep a part of Beau Biden around. Joe Biden said that his son always found comfort at Mass every week. Beau Biden’s faith also helped him confront his death, not fear it. Joe Biden said that his son always said, “there is something after.”

He went on to discuss the killing of two New York Police Department (NYPD) officers in 2014. The two officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were killed in their police car in an unprovoked attack. Liu’s father was comforted by Joe Biden in person. Liu’s father felt that, since Biden had to endure the car crash that killed his wife and child, he was able to empathize.

Biden said that, at Beau Biden’s funeral, after four hours of people greeting him, he saw Liu’s father. The man had driven to Wilmington and waited for four hours in line just to tell him that he was going to make it through and things would eventually be okay. Joe Biden said he was deeply touched by that gesture.

He also thanked the people of Delaware for the support due to both of the tragedies in Joe Biden’s life. He said that Delawareans have shown him and his family such support for around 45 years.

“We owe the people of Delaware more than we can ever repay,” Joe Biden said on behalf of his family.

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