“He did in 46 years what most of us couldn’t in 146,” U.S. President Barack Obama commented while eulogizing Beau Biden at a public funeral held at the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware, Saturday. Thousands turned out in memory of the former attorney general of Delaware and the son of Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama, who attended a middle-school graduation ceremony for his daughter Sasha and Joe Biden’s granddaughter Maisy Friday, painted a picture of Beau Biden as a family man -- someone who made his choices in public service so he could stay close to his loved ones, even as he respectfully followed the path traversed by his father.
“Beau was a Biden, and he learned early the Biden family rule. If you asked for help, then you’re too late. You’re never alone. You don’t have to ask. Someone is always there for them when you need them,” the president said.
Obama affectionately referred to Beau Biden as “Joe 2.0.” While the son did follow in some of his father’s footsteps, such as attending Syracuse University while in law school, the president recalled the steps Beau Biden had taken on his own. “He brushed away the possibility of privilege,” he said.
According to Obama, Beau Biden was once pulled over by a police officer for speeding and subsquently recognized. Accordingly, the officer was going to just give him a warning, but Beau Biden asked the officer to issue him a ticket instead, the president said.
“You know, anyone can make a name for themselves in this reality-TV age. But to make that name mean something -- to have it associated with dignity and integrity -- that is rare. There’s no shortcut to get it. It’s not something you can buy,” Obama said.
Beau Biden’s sister Ashley Biden and brother Hunter Biden also delivered eulogies, with the latter saying: “My brother went into politics because for him it was the right thing to do. It was the clearest path to helping as many people as he possibly could. And I know where my brother learned that. He learned that from my dad.”
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno delivered the first eulogy, in which he spoke of Beau Biden’s life of service, both in the military and as a public official. “He carried deeply for his fellow human beings and always treated everyone with dignity and respect,” he said. “Beau Biden’s character was genuine. People willingly wanted to follow him and believed in him.”
Odierno also spoke of the value of having those with military experience in the government. As a result, he had encouraged Beau Biden to run for Congress, he said. The general awarded the deceased the Legion of Merit during the funeral: Serving as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard, Beau Biden was deployed in Iraq from October 2008 to September 2009.
Among those at the funeral were first lady Michelle Obama, first daughter Sasha Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many congressional leaders.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin performed at the service after the conclusion of the eulogies.
Three demonstrators from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, picketed outside the funeral before it began. Almost 100 counterprotesters were there, and one man was arrested after throwing coffee on the Westboro representatives.