Vice President Joe Biden was surprised with a tribute of the highest honor when awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by his president and close friend Barack Obama on Thursday. Obama presented the medal – the highest form of civilian honor existing in the United States – “with distinction,” an additional level of esteem, for the first time in his presidency, and called Biden “a lion of American history” and “the best vice president America has ever had.”
Biden revealed that he had “no inkling” he would receive the medal, and was moved to tears as the president praised his achievements throughout the last eight years, including his championing of the Violence Against Women Act and the initiation of the “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual violence on college campuses.
“I don’t deserve this,” said an emotional Biden, “but I know it came from the president’s heart. There is a Talmudic saying that what comes from the heart, enters the heart. Mr. President, you have crept into our heart, you and your whole family.”
When Biden was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2013, his Irish ancestry was traced by Irish America’s genealogist Megan Smolenyak, who discovered the birthplace of his father’s great grandfather to be Knockmore, Co. Mayo, and that of his mother’s great grandfather to be the Cooley Peninsula, Co. Louth, both of which locations he visited during a six-day family trip in June 2016.
“As the great Irish poet Bono once said,” Biden joked during his induction speech, “America is not just a place. It’s an idea that has been embraced by the Irish for the last two centuries. The idea of America has borne great fruit, not just for us, but quite frankly for the whole world. There is a never-ending need to nurture that idea of America as a place of possibilities.” ♦