‘He made you want to be a better person’
Emotional Obama delivers celebratory eulogy for Beau Biden
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.