A fine bromance: in tearful ceremony, Obama surprises Vice-President Biden with Medal of Freedom

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 7:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 10:46pm

US President Barack Obama surprised Vice-President Joe Biden on Thursday by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction in an emotional and tear-filled White House ceremony that celebrated their partnership over eight years in office.

“This is an extraordinary man,” Obama said of his friend and running mate at a surprise ceremony with staff, family and friends of the vice-president.

“For the past eight years, he could not have been a more devoted or effective partner in the progress that we’ve made.”

Biden, who was unaware that the ceremony would take place, became visibly moved when Obama said he would bestow on him the highest civil honour in the United States.

“To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully,” Obama said. Biden turned his back to compose himself.

It will be the last such award that Obama gives before he and Biden leave office on January 20.

“I had no inkling,” Biden, 74, said after receiving the medal. “I get a lot of credit I don’t deserve,” he said, proceeding to give a roughly 20-minute impromptu speech thanking Obama and honouring the extended Biden family.

Biden and Obama became close friends during their time in the White House. Biden was a US senator from Delaware when Obama chose him to be his running mate in his 2008 presidential campaign.

The vice-president told an anecdote about Obama offering to help the Bidens financially during Biden’s son Beau’s illness. Beau Biden died of brain cancer at age 46 in 2015.

Biden praised his wife and children for their support throughout his career, and praised the Obama family for their dedication to country and service.

“I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things,” Biden said.

Speaking ahead of Biden, Obama said the tribute will give the Internet one last chance to joke about the “bromance” the two share. He called Biden the “best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people.”

Obama commended the “Biden heart,” listing the influences in Biden’s life, from the nuns who taught him in grade school, to his Senate colleagues, to his parents.

Noting that Biden’s career is “nowhere close to finished,” Obama said his vice-president will go on to have an impact in the US and abroad.

First lady Michelle Obama and the Obamas’ daughters, Malia and Sasha, also attended the ceremony.

Additional reporting by Associated Press