President Barack Obama surprised Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“I wanted to get some folks together to pay tribute to somebody who’s not only been by my side for the duration of this amazing journey,” Obama during a special, last-minute ceremony at the White House, “but somebody who has devoted his entire professional life to service to this country.”
Obama called Biden his “brother” and “the best vice president America’s ever had.”
“This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our bromance,” the president joked, before presenting Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Obama told Biden he was giving him the award in honor of “your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country, and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations.”
Obama also noted that he was awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom “with distinction,” an added layer of honor only given to three other people: Pope John Paul, President Reagan and Gen. Colin Powell.
An emotional Biden accepted the medal, turning his back to wipe away tears before he spoke.
“This honor is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it’s a reflection of the extent and generosity of your spirit,” Biden told Obama.
The 74-year-old Biden said he had “no inkling” of what was in store for him at the ceremony.
“I thought we were coming over to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been,” Biden said.
The vice president then shared the story of how Obama offered to help him while his son, Beau Biden, was sick.
“I’m indebted to you,” Biden said. “I’m indebted to your friendship, I’m indebted to your family.”
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