How Joe Biden's Children Have Inspired and Carried on His Political Legacy

Grant Rindner
·9 mins read
Photo credit: Scott J. Ferrell - Getty Images
Photo credit: Scott J. Ferrell - Getty Images

From Oprah Magazine

  • Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden has a large, accomplished family, who have carried on his political legacy.

  • Biden's living children are Hunter, 50, and Ashley, 39. He lost his eldest son, Beau, to brain cancer at 46 and his 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, in a 1972 car crash.

  • Biden's late son Beau introduced him to Sen. Kamala Harris.

Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for president on August 20, capping a long journey for the career politician who has also served as a senator and President Barack Obama's VP. But in addition to being in government, family has been a pillar for Biden, who has two surviving children and an inspiring marriage to Dr. Jill Biden.

Over the decades, Biden's family has been a crucial part of his life, from his late son Beau's rising political career and tragic passing to the public struggles of his youngest son Hunter to the successful, under-the-radar life of his daughter, Ashley. Through it all, Biden has remained a loving, committed father, famously riding the Amtrak train every day from Washington, D.C. to spend time with his children.

Biden is close with his living children Hunter, 50, and Ashley, 39. His eldest child, Beau, a promising politician of his own, died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. Decades earlier, Biden lost his daughter, Naomi, 1, and his first wife, Neilia, in a car car accident in 1972.

With the 2020 Presidential Election just a few months away, the entire Biden family will be foisted back into the public eye. Read on for information about how Beau Biden introduced his father to Sen. Kamala Harris, his daughter Ashley's career in fashion and activism, and how family has kept the presidential candidate grounded.

Beau Biden served in the military and had a rising political career before his death.

Taking after his father, Beau Biden was a rising star in the Democratic Party, particularly within his home state of Delaware. He attended law school and worked for the U.S. Department of Justice until eventually being elected Delaware's Attorney General in 2006 and serving from January 2007 to January 2015.

Photo credit: Alex Wong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alex Wong - Getty Images

Prior to his election, Biden had become part of Delaware's National Guard outfit, and his unit was deployed to Iraq in 2008, after he had begun serving as Attorney General. He spent a year serving overseas, but continued to hold his post, penning a letter to the residents of Delaware outlining how he would work with his staff to handle the job while in Iraq.

Photo credit: AFP
Photo credit: AFP

Beau was widely speculated to be a candidate for his father's vacated senate seat when his dad was running for Vice President, but he decided against it, and pursued a second term as Attorney General. In April 2014, he announced plans to run for governor of his home state in 2016, but never had the opportunity to do so.

Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013, which was treated with a variety of methods before he returned to his post as Delaware's Attorney General. Eventually, the cancer came back, and Beau Biden died in May 2015 after a week spent at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The nature of Beau's passing still weighs on Joe, and has informed and inspired his decision to stay in politics even as he's gotten older.

"Beau should be the one running for president, not me," Biden said in January 2020.

Beau Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris overlapped in their terms as Attorney Generals for Delaware and California, respectively, and that connection forged a friendship between the two. Their closeness helped put Harris on Joe Biden's radar and get the Vice President to initially endorse her senate campaign.

“I first met Kamala through my son Beau,” Biden said when announcing Harris as his choice for Vice President. “He had enormous respect for her and her work. I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”

When Beau passed in 2015, Harris attended the memorial service and shared an emotional post on Instagram.

"Over the weekend, I attended the memorial service for my dear friend Beau Biden. It was a moving tribute to Beau, who cared so deeply for his family, the people of Delaware, and our country," she wrote. "I feel fortunate to have known Beau as a friend and to have had the opportunity to work closely with him as Attorneys General. My heart and prayers go out to his family, which he loved so passionately."

Hunter Biden has been at the center of partisan controversy.

Biden's youngest son, Hunter, 50, briefly worked in politics, serving in the Department of Commerce in the late '90s and early '00s, before transitioning into a career as a lobbyist. From there, he was named a member of the Amtrak Board of Directors by George W. Bush, but he received the most attention for his work overseas at the tail end of his father's Vice Presidential term.

Photo credit: Teresa Kroeger
Photo credit: Teresa Kroeger

In 2014, Hunter became a board member of a Ukranian natural gas company called Burisma. He became involved in controversy after his father advocated for the ousting of Ukraine's prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.

Shokin eventually claimed he was dismissed for investigating Burisma, implying that Joe Biden used his power to help his son Hunter avoid scrutiny. Republicans clung to that idea, launching an investigation into Biden that many saw as a veiled attempt at blemishing the reputation of Joe Biden during his run for the presidency against President Donald Trump. Thus far, no impropriety has been found.

Hunter has had other personal struggles, including a lengthy battle with addiction and substance abuse that led him to rehab. Still, Hunter has remained close with his family—he was deeply affected by the loss of Beau—and has five children of his own.

Joe Biden's daughter, Ashley Biden, is an activist and clothing designer.

While Beau and Hunter are more traditionally in the public eye, his daughter Ashley, 39, is an accomplished social worker and business owner as well. The youngest Biden child served as executive director of the non-profit Delaware Center for Justice, which focuses on issues like finding alternatives to prison and helping felons reenter society.

Photo credit: Gary Gershoff
Photo credit: Gary Gershoff

In addition, Ashley, who is married to Dr. Howard David Krein, runs a clothing design and retail startup called Livelihood—which is currently in a "re-launch" phase—that raises money for "neighborhoods in need" in Delaware and D.C. She spoke at the time of its launch in 2017 about using the company to help the Black Lives Matter movement, and how its core mission can be connected to racial justice.

"Livelihood is specifically about income inequality," she told Elle. "And racial inequality and income inequality are directly related."

Ashley, who graduated from Tulane University, and has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, has been increasingly visible on the campaign trail. She spoke on a virtual panel titled Wisconsin Women for Biden, explaining why she feels her father is the right president at this pivotal moment.

"He has the empathy and fortitude to help us address the racial and economic disparities that undermine all communities," she said. "Make no mistake, women will decide this election. Women of color will decide this election. Women for Biden keep up the great work. I know when women unite, we are going to win."

Biden had another daughter, Naomi, who passed away as an infant.

Even before the death of Beau Biden, Joe was no stranger to loss. In 1972, while he was waiting to begin his time as a senator, a car accident killed Biden's wife, Neilia, his one-year-old daughter, Naomi, and left Hunter and Beau in critical condition.

Biden has discussed these losses in public, most notably during Yale University's 2015 Class Day.

"The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through," he said. "But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption."

Joe eventually married Jill Jacobs in 1977, and the two had Ashley Biden in 1981.

The name Naomi has stayed in the Biden family, as Joe's 26-year-old granddaughter is named after her late aunt. She's a law student and a vocal proponent of her grandfather's political ambitions.

Photo credit: Handout - Getty Images
Photo credit: Handout - Getty Images

Joe Biden's own early years are detailed in a children's picture book written by his wife.

Those who are interested in learning what Joe Biden was like as a son and a young man himself can read Joey: The Story of Joe Biden, an illustrated book published by his wife, Jill, in June 2020.

Working with illustrator Amy June Bates and writer Kathleen Krull, Joey highlights a young Biden's passion for family, community, and standing up for what's right, and how those qualities set him on the path that made him Vice President and a candidate for the presidency.

In an interview with Good Morning America, Dr. Biden spoke about what inspired the book and the lessons she feels her husband's life can teach today's kids.

"These young children see Joe on TV, and I want them to know Joe as a child. He was so brave and adventurous. He never refused a dare," she explained. "But he also was a little boy who stuttered and he had to overcome hardship. I want children to realize that even if there's something you're struggling with you can be a success. You can be or do whatever you want to do. Joe's story is an example of that."

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