In one of his final acts as President, President Barack Obama awarded Vice President Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction. Biden is only the fourth person to get the added Distinction level since the George H.W. Bush Administration. The other three are Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and General Colin Powell.
Obama surprised Biden with the ceremony with Biden thinking it would be a toast to staff. As Obama spoke about his running mate whom he referred to as “brother,” Biden visibly started to tear up. President Obama then said, “I’d like to ask the military aide to join us onstage.” The President then announced he would be awarding Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Biden turned around in order to use a handkerchief.
Vice President Biden later spoke and said he did not deserve the award. He said that his record as Vice President was due to the trust President Obama placed in him. “Every single thing you’ve asked me to do, Mr. President, you have trusted me to do,” he said.
“And that is a remarkable thing.”
The citation for the Medal, as read by a military aide, is:
Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. In a career of public service spanning nearly half a century, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has left his mark on almost every part of our nation, fighting for a stronger middle class, a fairer judicial system and a smarter foreign policy; providing unyielding support for our troops; combatting crime and violence against women; leading our quest to cure cancer; and safeguarding the landmark American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from corruption.
President Obama and Vice President Biden have developed a strong friendship over the past eight years with President Obama delivering the eulogy at Biden’s son’s funeral. Obama said his “family is so proud to call ourselves honorary Bidens.”
Their friendship has grown strong enough to spur Internet memes and a friendship bracelet seen on BuzzFeed.