President Barack Obama surprised an emotional Joe Biden Thursday with a farewell tribute where he presented the vice president with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Obama gave the entire Biden clan a glowing tribute, including his children, grandchildren and wife, Jill Biden. He described Biden and Jill as “an all-American love story” and affectionately called Biden his “brother” and a “lion of American history.”
Biden laughed and clapped along with the President’s remarks and reacted with shock when Obama ended his speech by giving Biden the medal.
“To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully,” Obama said. “As one of his long-time colleagues in the senate who happened to be a Republican once said, ‘if you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you have got a problem.’ He is as good a man as God ever created.”
Obama said that he added an additional level of veneration to the medal for the first time in his presidency. The last three presidents awarded this level to Pope John Paul II, former President Ronald Reagan and General Colin Powell, Obama said.
After the President awarded him the medal, Biden gave an emotional speech that he started in true form: with a joke, ribbing his chief of staff Steve Ricchetti for misleading him to get him to the surprise event.
“Steve Ricchetti, you’re fired,” he laughed.
“I had—I had no inkling,” Biden continued. “I thought we were coming over, Michelle, for you Jill, Barack and I to — and a couple senior staff to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been.”