Welcome home, Joe.
Thanks for a job well done!
Many Delawareans among our business readership may not necessarily appreciate the Barack Obama presidency, but many more of those Delawareans appreciate your extra service to our country.
In this generation, you were without peer as the best vice president we’ve seen in a half-century of memories. And the odds are great that you’d be the all-time best, or among the top two or three.
To people outside Delaware, you came to represent our state — along with the DuPonts, both the company and the family; credit cards; corporate law and incorporations; and chickens, including the Blue Hens.
Given the nature of my business and public affairs-type contacts beyond our state, people outside Delaware often asked me if I knew you.
“Yeah,” I said, “I’ve known Joe over 40 years, and he lives about a long country block from me, as the crow flies. We have the same pharmacist, Colleen, the same favorite coffee shop and grocery store.”
“Ok, Sam,” I’d often be asked in the natural follow-up query, “and how do you feel about that?!?”
What they’d come to appreciate — which many of us in Delaware already appreciated — is the sometimes lightning rod quality of Joe Biden.
Joe Biden always is up front and personal, in your face, and full of Irish bulls—t and charm! It could work against you, Joe, with some, but it worked for you with many more, I believe.
Nuance and subtlety were not the sharp edges of the blade in your tool kit. Bluntness, on one hand, and sugar coating, on the other, were. Who among us ever can forget your whispered stage quote to the president on his signing of the Affordable Care Act, “This is a fxxxing big deal!”
I think people — those with whom you worked as well as those who saw you only through their TV screens — came to like you genuinely and so well because of how you made them feel. They appreciated the caring in the sugar coating, and the honesty in the bluntness, kind of a blended ultimate connection.
Those who want to pick can find plenty of material, too, because you’re as imperfect as any of the rest of us. Like any, and all, you’re a work in progress. We know that, we understand that and appreciate it.
Certainly, the tragedies that befell you captured the empathy, and the hearts, of millions who never had met you.
Your first wife and daughter died in December 1972, and thousands of us in Delaware grieved with you.
And, when your son Beau passed away nearly two years this spring, millions more who never met you grieved with you and your family.
You observed that Beau was “as fine a man as you could meet,” and he really was. His quality of character was a tribute to you as a father and to Jill as the mother who raised him.
I featured Beau in a May 2004 story for Delaware Today magazine about people to watch in politics, which landed him on the cover — along with the infamous Christine O’Donnell.
“I still have that cover framed and hanging on the wall in my house,” you always reminded me when we meet, as you did at Hockessin’s Fourth of July parade last year.
(It occurs to me, Joe, how do you think Christine O’Donnell would feel if she knew that her picture, along with Beau on the cover, hangs on the wall in your Greenville home?)
I confess, I’m not unique in enjoying the sense of a close rapport with you. After all, this is Delaware. Who knows how many lives you touched here? At the end of the day, untold numbers of Delawareans consider you a friend, and will gladly make a place for you at their table.
You always have thought on a large scale. I remember a breakfast we had in 1978, as you were running for a second term in the Senate. It was just the two of us in a booth at the old Howard Johnson’s in Fairfax.
“Have you ever thought about working in the White House, Sam?” you asked me. I hadn’t, but it was clear that you had, and were thinking of it then, even at the tender age of 35.
You demonstrated to a generation — in Delaware and beyond — the power of working to achieve your dreams. The ultimate prize, the presidency, eluded you, although I told many friends that I felt we Democrats had the ticket “upside down” in 2008, when you should have led it. And, like thousands more here in Delaware, I still wish you would have run in 2016.
But, you made the best and pragmatic use of that 2008 disappointment to make yourself into arguably the best VPOTUS — the Vice President of the United States – that this country has ever seen.
Thanks, Joe, for a great career of public service, and welcome home.
I hope you’ll wear that Presidential Medal of Freedom around town for the first year or so. You earned it.