US President Barack Obama on Thursday awarded Vice President Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honour, in a surprise ceremony at the White House.
During a speech paying tribute to the vice president, Obama announced he would award the final medal of his presidency to the vice president. That elicited audible gasps from the crowd and caused an emotional, tearful Biden to turn away.
“Joe, for your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country, and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations, I’d like to ask the military aide to join us onstage,” Obama said before presenting the award.
— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) January 12, 2017
Obama praised Biden’s long career in the Senate, as well as his work on issues like curbing domestic violence and sexual assault, on foreign policy, and on a campaign to cure cancer in the wake of the death of his son Beau, the former Delaware attorney general, in 2015.
Choking up and becoming tearful at several points, Biden said he had “no inkling” he would be receiving the medal, and he praised Obama for allowing him to take a lead role on many key issues.
“I’ve also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room,” Biden said.
“Mr. President, you have more than kept your commitment to me by saying that you wanted me to help govern,” Biden said. “Every single thing you’ve asked me to do, Mr. President, you have trusted me to do. And that’s a remarkable thing. I don’t think … that kind of relationship has existed.”
Obama and Biden’s close personal relationship has been well documented, even becoming an internet meme. Obama alluded to that when he called their relationship a “bromance” during the ceremony.