THE PRESIDENT: “A man,” wrote an Irish poet, “is original when he speaks the truth that has always been known to all good men.” Beau Biden was an original. He was a good man. A man of character. A man who loved deeply, and was loved in return.
Your Eminences, your Excellencies, General Odierno, distinguished guests; to Hallie, Natalie and Hunter; to Hunter, Kathleen, Ashley, Howard; the rest of Beau’s beautiful family, friends, colleagues; to Jill and to Joe — we are here to grieve with you, but more importantly, we are here because we love you.
Without love, life can be cold and it can be cruel. Sometimes cruelty is deliberate –- the action of bullies or bigots, or the inaction of those indifferent to another’s pain. But often, cruelty is simply born of life, a matter of fate or God’s will, beyond our mortal powers to comprehend. To suffer such faceless, seemingly random cruelty can harden the softest hearts, or shrink the sturdiest. It can make one mean, or bitter, or full of self-pity. Or, to paraphrase an old proverb, it can make you beg 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; shoulders broad enough to shield those who need shelter the most.
To know Beau Biden is to know which choice he made in his life. To know Joe and the rest of the Biden family is to understand why Beau lived the life he did. For Beau, a cruel twist of fate came early –- the car accident that took his mom and his sister, and confined Beau and Hunter, then still toddlers, to hospital beds at Christmastime.
But Beau was a Biden. And he learned early the Biden family rule: If you have to ask for help, it’s too late. It meant you were never alone; you don’t even have to ask, because someone is always there for you when you need them.
And so, after the accident, Aunt Valerie rushed in to care for the boys, and remained to help raise them. Joe continued public service, but shunned the parlor games of Washington, choosing instead the daily commute home, maintained for decades, that would let him meet his most cherished duty -– to see his kids off to school, to kiss them at night, to let them know that the world was stable and that there was firm ground under their feet.
As Joe himself confessed to me, he did not just do this because the kids needed him. He did it because he needed those kids. And somehow, Beau sensed that -– how understandably and deeply hurt his family and his father was. And so, rather than use his childhood trauma as justification for a life of self-pity or self-centeredness, that very young boy made a very grown-up decision: He would live a life of meaning. He would live a life for others. He would ask God for broader shoulders.
Beau would guide and look out for his younger brother. He would embrace his new mom –- apparently, the two boys sheepishly asking their father when they could all marry Jill -– and throughout his life, no one would make Jill laugh harder. He would look after their baby sister, Ashley. He would forever be the one to do the right thing, careful not to give his family or his friends cause for concern.
It’s no secret that a lot of what made Beau the way he was was just how much he loved and admired his dad. He studied law, like his dad, even choosing the same law school. He chased public service, like his dad, believing it to be a noble and important pursuit. From his dad, he learned how to get back up when life knocked him down. He learned that he was no higher than anybody else, and no lower than anybody else –- something Joe got from his mom, by the way. And he learned how to make everybody else feel like we matter, because his dad taught him that everybody matters.
He even looked and sounded like Joe, although I think Joe would be first to acknowledge that Beau was an upgrade — Joe 2.0. (Laughter.) But as much as Beau reminded folks of Joe, he was very much his own man. He was an original.
Here was a scion of an incredible family who brushed away the possibility of privilege for the harder, better reward of earning his own way. Here was a soldier who dodged glory, and exuded true humility. A prosecutor who defended the defenseless. The rare politician who collected more fans than foes, and the rarer public figure who prioritized his private life above all else.
Beau didn’t cut corners. He turned down an appointment to be Delaware’s attorney general so he could win it fair and square. When the field was clear for him to run for the Senate, he chose to finish his job as A.G. instead. He didn’t do these things to gain favor with a cynical public –- it’s just who he was. In his twenties, he and a friend were stopped for speeding outside Scranton. And the officer recognized the name on the license, and because he was a fan of Joe’s work with law enforcement he wanted to let Beau off with a warning. But Beau made him write that ticket. Beau didn’t trade on his name.
After 9/11, he joined the National Guard. He felt it was his obligation -– part of what those broader shoulders are for. He did his duty to his country and deployed to Iraq, and General Odierno eloquently spoke to Major Biden’s service. What I can tell you is when he was loading up to ship out at Dover, there was a lot of press that wanted to interview him. Beau refused. He was just another soldier.
I saw him when I visited Iraq; he conducted himself the same way. His deployment was hard on Hallie and the kids, like it was for so many families over the last 14 years. It was hard on Joe, hard on Jill. That’s partly why Jill threw herself into her work with military families with so much intensity. That’s how you know when Joe thunders “may God protect our troops” in every speech he does, he means it so deeply.
Like his father, Beau did not have a mean bone in his body. The cruelty he’d endured in his life didn’t make him hard, it made him compassionate, empathetic. But it did make him abhor bullies.
Culled from http://www.rolingout.com