Sure, Obama is ‘The Man’. But co-pilot Joe Biden is a big ol’ legend too, which the internet has not let go unnoticed. He has become a meme-in-chief, in the same year we had Harambe and that is no small feat. And his purest of bromances with Obama has inspired the most cynical of folk.
No moment more so than his uninhibited reaction to receiving a surprise Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian award around) as Obama proclaimed him as his brother:
Of course, his career isn’t limited to owning the internet – he’s been in politics for 44 years and was sworn into the US Senate when Obama was just 11.
But his raw reaction when he accepted his medal is indicative of Biden as a politician – sometimes not what you’d expect, but refreshingly honest and genuine.
If there’s one thing politics has taught us this year, it’s how not to be. Except when it comes to Joe Biden, who can teach you how to be a better man.
He’s determined and ambitious:
All the way through school, Biden was bullied for a speech impediment. You’d never know it now, but that’s down to the fact he worked tirelessly to eradicate it, memorising and reciting poems to learn cadence and rhythm. Thanks to his experience, he has no tolerance for bullying, which is probably just one of the reasons he isn’t a fan of Trump.
He also isn’t from a long line of politics and money. He painted his high school fences and did handiwork through the summers in exchange for tuition and went to law school on a scholarship before setting up his own law firm.
His interest in politics began in college, and by 29 he won the Senate election in Delaware, becoming the fifth youngest person to be elected in US history. He was the first senator that he and his family ever knew, and it was down to determination and hard work.
He overcame tragedy:
Honestly, just half the stuff this guy has been through is enough to break a man. In 1972, his wife and three young children were hit by a tractor while driving to do some Christmas errands a week before the holidays. His wife and daughter were killed and his two sons, Beau and Hunter, were left seriously injured with doubts they would make it.
In his own words:
"I began to understand how despair led people to just cash in; how suicide wasn't just an option but a rational option ... I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry."
But through encouragement from his family, he decided to honour his commitment and was sworn into the Senate by his children’s bedside as they recovered.
He is a family man first:
Due to the tragedy, Biden formed an unbreakable bond with his sons. He would commute from Delaware to Washington every day so that he wasn’t away from them for too long and would bring them along whenever they wanted.
He says he’s had a rule since the Senate:
“I will interrupt any meeting, even with the president, if my children or grandchildren call.”
He is deeply involved in all his family’s lives and vice versa – his younger sister Valerie ran all of his campaigns up until he joined the Obama administration.
According to the man himself, he speaks to his children every day [Biden remarried five years after his first wife’s death and had a daughter with current wife Jill] and was deeply affected by the death of his eldest son Beau, who died at 46 after battling brain cancer.
He had planned to run for presidency in the 2016 election for the third time but following Beau’s death left it to Clinton, citing:
"No one should ever seek the presidency unless they're able to devote their whole heart and soul and passion into just doing that. And Beau was my soul."
The good news is he hasn’t dismissed the idea of running for 2020.
And instils his family values into his staff:
He told Popular Mechanics: “I have a rule for every single staff member who's ever worked for me in forty-two years: If you ever come to work when your kid has an important function, no matter what you're doing for me—if you ever show up for me and you miss your wife's birthday or your husband's birthday or your kid's thing, don't work for me. And I mean it. That is the God's truth. I can swear on my word as a Biden.”
He believes everyone is equal:
His mother always told him that “Nobody is better than you. You're not better than anybody, but nobody is better than you."
He has carried that all through life, and so should we all.
He’s a cracking diplomat:
Biden has a global network of world leaders who respect him, and he’s flown more than 1.1 million miles on Air Force 2 since becoming VP.
He won the Senate vote on a campaign that included pulling out of Vietnam. He voted against the Iraq war, and as VP oversaw the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, while also keeping a close eye on relations between Russia and Ukraine, and once telling Putin, he has ‘no soul’.
He told GQ:
"We were trying to get a world leader to refrain from doing something. He came to Washington, and it was a big deal. Most people thought that if he had done what he was going to do, it would have caused a war to break out.
And I convinced him to forgo it and do something else. And I walked out, and a guy was there, a senior staff guy at the State Department, and he said, 'You know, Mr. Vice President, you didn't realize it, but that was diplomacy!'”
He doesn’t see opposition as the enemy:
He’d probably draw the line at the orange Tweeter-elect but he is so respected throughout Washington that many Republicans consider him a friend.
In fact, he calls both Bob Dole and John McCain some of his closest friends.
He’s puts value on knowledge:
He told GQ:
"I never speak about anything I don't know a great deal about. That I haven't worked like hell for. But that's not what you'd expect."
He’s refreshingly funny:
It may have got him into some hot water at times, and he is prone to a gaff or two (he once told a guy in a wheelchair to stand up and applaud Obama, but that seems like an honest mistake), but he has character and a great sense of humour.
When Obama was signing the health-insurance-reform bill, Biden whispered to him “This is a big fucking deal!”
He’s a team player:
He has served as VP with nowhere near the agenda of his predecessor, and worked with Obama as a team to achieve as much as possible. I mean, you just need to listen to Obama talk about him to get the idea.
And he’s obvs a great mate:
He’s an advocate for women…
Biden himself said:
“One of my biggest accomplishments in the Senate was writing and passing the Violence Against Women Act.”
He has campaigned for women throughout his career and recently wrote an open letter to Stanford rapist Brock Turner’s victim, which you can read here.
…And LGBTQ rights
He is quoted as saying:
"Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love?... Whether they're marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals."
He has been vocal in his support of LGBTQ rights, campaigning for marriage equality before Obama and actually officiated the wedding of two White House staffers, Brian Mosteller and Joe Mashie, at a ceremony held at his house.
He’s working relentlessly to beat cancer:
As one of his final acts in power, Biden signed a $1 billion ‘moonshot’ attempt at finding true breakthroughs to cure cancer, hoping to find a cure in the next five years. The initiative will find prevention, diagnosis and treatment for all cancer patients, which will require astronomical in-depth medical research, as well as data collecting to put an end to the leading cause of death today.
He keeps up with the times (despite being 74):
“As the chairman or lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, I’ve overseen more Supreme Court nominations than any other living person.”
Despite that, the man and his policies seem decidedly up-to-date (see women’s and LGBTQ rights and investing in science etc.)
Anyway, does your Grandad even know what a meme is, let alone joke about being one?
Most importantly, he’s principled:
“My father said we must stand up to the worst sin: abuse of power. This has been the guiding principle of my career.”