On Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden's son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died of brain cancer. He was 46.
Just weeks before his son's death, the vice president delivered commencement remarks at Yale University that the Washington Post described as "a deeply personal speech to thousands of students and parents who had no idea what the vice president was personally enduring." During the address, Biden discussed both the heart-wrenching loss of his wife and daughter in a vehicular collision in 1972 and about the importance of his relationship with his two sons; when he was a senator, Biden traveled home to see them every night after he was done with his responsibilities in Washington D.C.
During his speech at Yale, Biden told the assembled graduates and their families that his mother told him "out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it. She was right."
"The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I'm not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through," Biden said. "Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was."
Those remarks appeared to parallel a speech he gave in 2012, when he moved the families of fallen veterans to tears by telling them that "There will come a day — I promise you, and your parents as well — when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye."
The relevant parts of the transcript are below:
Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever. While I was in Washington hiring staff, I got a phone call. My wife and three children were Christmas shopping, a tractor trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter. And they weren't sure that my sons would live.
Many people have gone through things like that. But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, grounded in love and loyalty, imbued with a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help. But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption.
I can remember my mother — a sweet lady — looking at me, after we left the hospital, and saying, Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it. She was right,
The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I'm not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through. Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was...
And I began to commute thinking I was only going to stay a little while — four hours a day, every day — from Washington to Wilmington, which I've done for over 37 years. I did it because I wanted to be able to kiss them goodnight and kiss them in the morning the next day. No, "Ozzie and Harriet" breakfast or great familial thing, just climb in bed with them. Because I came to realize that a child can hold an important thought, something they want to say to their mom and dad, maybe for 12 or 24 hours, and then it's gone. And when it's gone, it's gone. And it all adds up
But looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me. Some at the time wrote and suggested that Biden can't be a serious national figure. If he was, he'd stay in Washington more, attend to more important events. It's obvious he's not serious. He goes home after the last vote.