President Obama surprised Vice President Joe Biden with a special ceremony on Thursday during which he awarded his second-in-command the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard and to live life fully,” the outgoing president told White House staffers and members of the First and Second Families gathered inside the East Room. “So Joe, for your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and for your lifetime of service … I am pleased to award our nation’s highest civilian honor.”
Biden immediately turned away from the cameras to gather his composure as Obama made the announcement. “I had no inkling,” he later said.
In reflecting on the close-knit relationship they’ve developed, Obama said of Biden: “He’s been unafraid to give it to me straight even when we disagree – in fact, especially when we disagree.”
“I think he has been a lion of American history, and the best part is he’s nowhere close to finished,” Obama said.
“I’ve never know a president who had the integrity, and the decency, and the sense of other peoples’ needs like you do,” Biden later said, returning the compliment.