Obama remembers Joe Biden’s son for living ‘life of meaning’

Published 1:17 pm Saturday, June 6, 2015

WILMINGTON, Del. — Mourning a loss that touched people on Delaware street corners and far beyond, President Barack Obama on Saturday remembered Beau Biden, the vice president’s son, as a public servant who learned through early tragedy what mattered most and resolved to “live a life of meaning.”

“He was a scion of an incredible family who brushed away the possibility of privilege for the harder, better reward of earning his own way,” Obama said in a deeply personal eulogy. The president described Beau Biden as a son, a father, a soldier and a politician who didn’t cut corners in his efforts to serve his country and others.

The former Delaware attorney general died a week ago of brain cancer at age 46.

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Obama reflected on the “cruel twist of fate” that killed Beau Biden’s mother and infant sister in a car crash four decades ago and left 3-year-old Beau and younger brother Hunter hospitalized.

Out of that tragedy, Obama said, Beau as a “very young boy made a very grown-up decision: He would live a life of meaning. He would live a life for others.”

Vice President Joe Biden, who did not speak at his son’s funeral, embraced Obama at the funeral’s start, after crossed himself solemnly as he entered the church to the strains of “Bring Him Home,” from “Les Miserables.”

Obama’s eulogy reflected the strong bonds that Joe Biden and the president have developed after more than six years together in the White House, with the president declaring his family to be “honorary members” of the extended Biden clan.

Speaking directly to the vice president and his wife, Jill, Obama said, “Michelle and I thank God you are in our lives. Taking this ride with you is one of the great pleasures of our lives. Joe, you are my brother.”

The overflow crowd of 1,000 at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church included Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, an array of state and national political figures, as well as people from across Delaware and beyond who lined up hours in advance, drawn by their strong bonds to the Biden family.

“Joe Biden is Delaware, and his son is also Delaware to me,” said Lisa Rial, 54, who grew up in Delaware but lives in Pennsylvania. “They’re synonymous with Delaware.” Outside, along the route to the church, residents held up signs reading “Rest in Peace, Beau.”

Gen. Ray Odierno, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, where Beau Biden once served, eulogized him as a dedicated soldier and selfless friend. Odierno suggested that the presidency could even have been within Beau Biden’s reach as he spoke of his dedication to “a nation that I believed one day Beau Biden would someday lead.”