‘He made you want to be a bet­ter per­son’

Emo­tional Obama de­liv­ers cel­e­bra­tory eu­logy for Beau Bi­den

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY JULIET EILPERIN AND MAX EHRENFREUND juliet.eilperin@wash­post.com max.ehrenfreund@wash­post.com Ehrenfreund re­ported from Wash­ing­ton.

wilm­ing­ton, del.— Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den and his fam­ily said good­bye to his el­der son Satur­day in an emo­tional ser­vice in which Pres­i­dent Obama praised the late Bi­den scion as “a man who led a life where the means were as im­por­tant as the ends.”

Joseph Robi­nette Bi­den III, known as Beau, a 46-year-old Iraq war vet­eran and Delaware’s for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral, died May 30 of brain can­cer.

More than 1,000 mourn­ers filled St. An­thony of Padua Ro­man Catholic Church, in­clud­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta E. Lynch; Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the ma­jor­ity and mi­nor­ity lead­ers; and other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and po­lit­i­cal fig­ures.

Cold­play lead singer Chris Martin sang “Til King­dom Come,” of­fer­ing to come to the fu­neral af­ter hear­ing through a fam­ily friend that Beau Bi­den’s chil­dren con­sid­ered the band their dad’s fa­vorite, ac­cord­ing to White House of­fi­cials.

But for all the lu­mi­nar­ies present, the ser­vice was no­table for how it cap­tured the in­tense love shared among Bi­den fam­ily mem­bers and those who are clos­est to them.

Hunter and Ash­ley Bi­den gave wrench­ing re­marks about the emo­tional cor­ner­stone their older brother had been for them since early child­hood. They pledged to pro­vide that same sup­port to his chil­dren, Natalie and Hunter, and his widow, Hal­lie.

“The first mem­ory I have is of ly­ing in a hos­pi­tal bed next to my brother,” Hunter Bi­den said, ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to the car ac­ci­dent in 1972 that killed his mother and sis­ter and hos­pi­tal­ized him and Beau. “I re­mem­ber my brother, who was one year and one day older than me, hold­ing my hand star­ing into my eyes, say­ing, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you,’ over and over again.”

Obama de­scribed Beau Bi­den as a man who could bear life’s bur­dens.

“You can beg God for a lighter bur­den, but if you’re strong enough, it can also make you ask God for broader shoul­ders, shoul­ders broad enough to bear not only your own bur­dens but the bur­dens of oth­ers,” Obama said. Beau “would ask God for broader shoul­ders.”

He re­counted a full life that in­cluded de­ploy­ment in Iraq in the Army Judge Ad­vo­cate Gen­eral’s Corps and work as at­tor­ney gen­eral on be­half of “home­own­ers who were cheated, se­niors who were scammed,” and the vic­tims of child preda­tors.

The pres­i­dent re­called the two at­tend­ing fundrais­ers with wealthy, im­por­tant peo­ple, where the vice pres­i­dent’s son would in­vari­ably whis­per “some­thing wildly in­ap­pro­pri­ate in your ear.”

Most of Obama’s eu­logy was somber, though.

“He made you want to be a bet­ter per­son,” the pres­i­dent said, vis­i­bly work­ing to keep his com­po­sure. “Isn’t that fi­nally the mea­sure of a man, the way he lives, how he treats oth­ers, no mat­ter what life may throw at him?

“We do not know how long we’ve got here. We don’t know when fate will in­ter­vene. We can­not dis­cern God’s plan. What we do know is that with ev­ery minute that we’ve got, we can live our lives in a way that takes noth­ing for granted. We can love deeply. We can help peo­ple who need help. We can teach our chil­dren what mat­ters. We can pass on em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion and self­less­ness. We can teach them to have broad shoul­ders.”

In prais­ing both Beau Bi­den and his fa­ther, Obama sketched out his vi­sion of what it means to earn a name as a na­tional po­lit­i­cal fig­ure.

“What greater in­her­i­tance than to be part of a fam­ily that passes on the val­ues of what it means to be a great par­ent; that passes on the val­ues of what it means to be a true cit­i­zen; that passes on the val­ues of what it means to give back, fully and freely, with­out ex­pect­ing any­thing in re­turn?”

In his homily pre­ced­ing the eu­lo­gies, the Rev. Leo O’Dono­van praised Beau Bi­den’s ser­vice to his coun­try.

“This peer­lessly pa­tri­otic public ser­vant— gone, gone, gone,” he said. “Beau is gone.”

Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, posthu­mously pre­sent­ing the Le­gion of Merit, told the mourn­ers that he had thought Beau Bi­den would one day be­come pres­i­dent. Odierno served as com­mand­ing gen­eral of U.S. forces in Iraq dur­ing the time Bi­den served there.

“Beau pos­sessed the traits I have wit­nessed only in the great­est lead­ers,” the gen­eral said in his eu­logy. “He had a nat­u­ral charisma that few peo­ple pos­sess.”


Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den, flanked by Beau Bi­den’s widow, Hal­lie Bi­den, left, and daugh­ter, Natalie, watches an honor guard carry a cas­ket con­tain­ing his son Beau’s re­mains in Wilm­ing­ton, Del. DView two videos at wapo.st/obam­abiden and wapo.st/biden­sis­ter.


Pres­i­dent Obama em­braces Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den af­ter his eu­logy for Bi­den’s son Beau, who diedMay 30 of brain can­cer.

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