Biden was visibly stunned when Obama announced that he would receive the country’s highest civilian honor, turning from the crowd, grabbing a handkerchief from his pocket and tearing up.
Obama also bestowed the medal with an additional level of veneration, marking the first time he has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom With Distinction during his White House tenure. The past three presidents have only given such an honor three times, with Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan and General Colin Powell receiving the citation.
In a citation read by an aide, Biden was lauded for his nearly 50 years of public service. “With his charm, candor, unabashed optimism and deep and abiding patriotism, Joe Biden has garnered the respect and esteem of colleagues of both parties, and the friendship of people across the nation and around the world,” the aide said.
Despite running against each other for the Democratic nomination in 2008, Obama and Biden became fast friends after Biden and Obama became running mates and later entered the White House. Their friendship proved so strong and affable, it even inspired slew of Internet memes.
During his farewell address, Obama said, “To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: You were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother. We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.”