By Prudence Minayo
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is an American politician who is one of the longest serving senators in the United States of America. He served as the Delaware senator from 1973 to 2009 under the Democratic Party. He has also served as the Vice President of the United States during the Obama administration for two terms and is vying for presidency against Donald Trump. The whole world is holding its breath to see who will win the 2020 United States presidential elections, especially since campaigns were limited owing to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Apart from this Biden has received a number of honorary degrees from different institutions including:
- University of Delaware
- Widener University School of Law
- Suffolk University Law School
- Syracuse University
- University of Scranton
- Emerson college
During his years as a politician, he has been known to be very vocal on a number of things and is known for helping pass a number of acts in parliament. By the time he was resigning as senator, he was the fourth most senior senator.
Joe Biden was born on 20th November 1942 to Joseph Biden Sr. and Catherine Eugenia Finnegan. He is the first born in a family of 4 children in Scranton, Northern Pennsylvania. His parents instilled self belief in Biden from a young age even when other older children bullied him. Biden also had a stutter that made other children make fun of him branding him horrible nicknames. Later in life, he was able to overcome the stutter by reciting poems in front of the mirror.
Due to some financial setbacks his wealthy dad lost it all by the time Biden was born. This made them live with their maternal grandmother for quite sometime. The family then moved to Delaware, a middle class community, in the early 50s. His father got a job as a used car salesperson which enabled Joseph Sr. to ensure his family enjoyed a middle class upbringing.
Joe attended St. Paul’s Elementary School in Scranton until his family moved to Delaware. He then joined St. Helena School and finally managed to secure a chance in a prestigious school named Archmere Academy. In order to assist his parents raise the tuition money, he worked in the school washing windows and weeding gardens. The then young man was not the best student academically but was a natural leader making him become class president during junior and senior year. He was also a wide receiver for the high school football team.
Biden then joined the University of Delaware, Newark where he majored in History and Political Science. During his early university years, he was not very interested in education. Instead he focused on football, fun and girls. It was when he met Neilia Hunter, a student of Syracuse University, that he became serious with his studies. He successfully graduated and managed to get a chance to join Syracuse University where he pursued a law degree.
In 1968, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware where he started practicing law. While practicing law, he registered as a democrat and later opened a law firm alongside another attorney. Late that year, he was elected to a county council seat.
In 1972, he ran against a popular Republican incumbent Caleb Boggs for the United States senate. Despite the fact that he did not have many resources and some thought he would not win, Biden won by garnering 50.2 percent of the votes. His family greatly supported him and helped him in the campaigns. By winning, he became the fifth youngest United States senator to be elected in the country’s history.
In December 1972, he lost his wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter in a road accident. His two sons were also injured in the accident and managed to make a full recovery.
In January 1973, Biden was sworn in at the Delaware Division of the Wilmington Medical Center.
In his early years as senator, he focused on consumer protection and environmental issues.
In 1974, he was named among the 200 faces of the future by Time magazine. He also had to commute on a train from Washington DC to Delaware everyday in order to spend time with his sons. He focused on arms control and became famous after excoriating the then secretary of state George Shultz at a senate hearing for the Reagan administration support of South Africa despite its continued apartheid rule. He also supported initiatives on job opportunities, voting rights and housing.
In 1981, he became a ranking minority member of the senate judiciary committee.
On 9th June 1987, Biden formally declared his candidacy for the 1988 democratic presidential nomination. He appealed to the people and was considered a good and strong choice. In the first quarter of 1987, he raised more money compared to all the other candidates. Despite a very promising start, his campaign went downhill after it was marred by a number of allegations.
In September, he was accused of plagiarizing a speech by Neil Kinnock who was British Labor party leader. The same year, he had used a passage by Hubert Humphrey. The presidential aspirant felt that was not a bad thing. According to him, politicians often borrowed from each other without giving credit.
He was also accused of making a number of false claims about his life which were: attending law school on a full scholarship, graduating top half of his class and marching in the civil rights movement.
On 23rd September1987, he withdrew from the race.
In February 1988, he was taken to Walter Reed Army medical Center where he went for surgery. He developed complications and went back for another surgery in May. This kept him out of the senate for many months.
Biden was the chairman of the senate committee in the judiciary from 1987 to 1995. He crafted many federal crime laws.
He also served for a long time as a member of the senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sometimes he went against members of his party and collaborated with the Republicans. He also worked as co-chairman of the NATO observer group in the senate. Biden voted against the authorization of the gulf war in 1991.
In 1993, he voted for a provision where homosexuals were deemed incompatible with military life. This banned them from serving in the armed forces.
On 1996, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the government from recognizing same sex marriage. This act was ruled unconstitutional in 2015.
Congressional Quarterly named Biden among the “12 who make a difference” in 1998.
He was in support of the 1999 bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. He was also an avid supporter of the 2001 war in Afghanistan.
In 2002, he declared that Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security and there was no other option but to eliminate the threat. The same year, he voted for authorization for use of military forces against Iraq. He also got a number of witnesses to vote for this authorization. However, with time he criticized the war and said his vote was a mistake.
In March 2004, he met Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli and obtained the short release of Fathi Eljahmi who was a Libyan democratic activist and political prisoner.
Biden had served as a senator from 1973 when he was elected.
In 2007, he decided to run for presidency once again. His campaign failed to get as much momentum as that of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Therefore he dropped out of the race after receiving less than one percent of the vote in the crucial low caucuses. Obama then elected him as his running mate. Obama and Biden won the election and were sworn in 2009. He became the first Vice President from Delaware.
Obama won the presidency for the second term and Biden the vice presidency. During his tenure as vice president, he played a number of important roles. He also supported the NATO led military intervention in Libya in 2011.
On May 2012, he made a statement that he was absolutely okay with same sex marriage, sentiments which Obama later supported.
In December 2012, he was named head of the Gun Violence Task Force. The group was created following the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to talk about the causes of gun violence in the United States. During his second term, Biden spoke on a number of issues and visited some countries including Serbia. Many thought his activities were all in preparation of him getting ready to vie for the 2016 presidential seat.
In June 2016, Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party presidential bid and Biden did the same. During the campaigns, he publicly disagreed with the Republican nominee Donald Trump. He disagreed with many of Trump’s views among them the banning of Muslims from entering America and building a wall in the Mexico-America border.
On 17th January 2017, Obama presented Biden with the presidential medal of freedom with distinction, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in a surprise party at the White House. Obama declared him the best Vice President America has ever had and in turn Biden gave an emotional speech thanking the president, the First Lady, his wife and children.
Following the win of Donald Trump, Biden did not fade into the background. Rather, he expressed his satisfaction with the Trump administration and had mixed feelings over bypassing running for the 2016 presidential candidature.
As he was still contemplating running for the 2020 presidential seat, he faced a number of problems. He was accused of inappropriate treating women with Lucy Flores publishing an essay describing Biden inappropriately kissing her. Biden believed at no point had he acted inappropriately against any woman and said he would listen respectfully if that was suggested.
On 25th April 2019, Biden announced he would be vying for the presidential seat. On 11th August 2020, he named Kamala Harris as his running mate. On 18th August 2020, he was officially nominated at the 2020 Democratic National Convention as the Democratic Party nominee for president in the 2020 election.
The veteran politician was first married to Neilia Hunter whom he met while still a student at Delaware. He credits her with being the one who inspired him to stop joking around and concentrate on his studies. The two were blessed with three children, a girl named Amy and two sons Beau and Hunter. They got into an accident which claimed the lives of his wife and daughter and left his sons injured. He considered resigning in order to take care of them but was persuaded otherwise.
Biden met his second wife Jill Tracey Jacobs in 1975 on a blind date set by his brother and got married in 1977. They have a daughter named Ashley Blazer and he has credited his wife with helping in renewing his political interests. Unfortunately, he lost his son Beau a while ago due to brain cancer.