“A mighty heart” were the words that echoed through the St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Wilmington Delaware as President Obama eulogized the passing of Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, Iraq war veteran, and former Attorney General of Delaware who died of complications from brain cancer at 46. Obama, who fought back tears throughout his moving and eloquent speech honored Beau and the Biden family with words that revealed the lasting legacy that Beau left behind and the intimacy between the two families. Quotes from poet Patrick Kavanaugh were interspersed with recollections of Beau’s life and the personal connection that Obama had shared with him saying, “That’s what our country was built on—men like Beau.”
Joseph Robinette Biden III, Beau for short, was born in Wilmington, DE, the eldest son of senator and current vice president Joe Biden and his first wife Neilia. Tragedy struck early in the young Biden’s life when his mother was killed in an automobile accident in 1972 from which he and his brother also sustained injuries. His father would later remarry Jill Jacobs whom Beau would refer to as his “second mother.”
His early years were spent in building up a career of public service in government and law, much like his father before him. He graduated from Archmere Academy and would go on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Syracuse University College of Law. He began his career in the United States Department of Justice in Pennsylvania where he rose as federal prosecutor in the U.S attorney’s office.
Biden possessed a charisma and charm that permeated his professional and private life. General Raymond Odierno who posthumously awarded Biden the Legion of Merit said of him that, “people wanted to naturally follow him, trusted his judgment, and believed in him.” These leadership skills were on full display when he joined the military in 2003 as a member of the Delaware National Guard and during his successful 2006 run as attorney general in Delaware. Beau reached an even wider audience in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention where he introduced his father in a speech that brought tears to many eyes.
His death at the young age of 46 curtailed a political career that was just in its infancy, but as President Obama pointed out, “he did in 46 years what most of us couldn’t do in 146. He left nothing in the tank.” Widespread public mourning greeted the announcement of Beau Biden’s death with both sides of the political divide coming together to mourn in solidarity. During the funeral thousands lined the streets hoping to offer condolences to the vice president and his family. Vice President Biden, alongside his son and Beau’s brother Hunter, personally thanked all those who came out to pay their respects.
Megan Smolenyak who wrote of Vice President Biden’s Irish roots for this magazine in 2013 was on hand to witness the scene: “Brian [Megan’s husband] and I spent six hours in line [Friday] to pay respects for Beau. Joe greeted every single person. There was supposed to be a two-hour gap from four to six p.m. and they kept trying to get him to take a break, but he wouldn’t. By the time Brian and I got to him, he had been there six hours, and from tweets I read later, it seems he stayed for another four. And that was after greeting about 3,000 the day before.”
One tweet emphasized how close Obama and Biden are, observing that “to VP Biden, he is family.”
— Nerdy Wonka (@NerdyWonka) June 6, 2015
Beau Biden is survived by his father Joe, stepmother Jill, wife Hallie, daughter Natalie, son Hunter, brother Hunter, and numerous relatives. The country joins them in mourning the loss of a life taken too soon. ♦