President Obama Honors Vice President Joe Biden with Medal of Freedom in Surprise, Emotional Tribute

It’s been an emotional last few weeks for the Obama administration.

Tuesday night, President Obama delivered his farewell speech to Chicago and the American people. There were tears.

And on Thursday afternoon, the president decided to surprise Vice President Joe Biden with a tribute.

In fact, the State Room sendoff was a double surprise. While networks were informed that the vice president would be honored with a surprise tribute in the White House, they weren’t given the big news: Biden was to be bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction.

“It is, as Joe once said, a big … deal,” Obama joked, referencing Biden’s old open mic snafu.

The president recognized Biden’s career in public service, which he started at the age of 29 as a senator for the state of Delaware.

“Behind the scenes, Joe’s candid, honest counsel has made me a better president and a better commander-in-chief,” President Obama said, adding:

“He’s been unafraid to give it to me straight. Even if we disagree. In fact, especially when we disagree. And all of this makes him, I believe, the finest vice president we’ve ever seen. And I also think that he’s been a lion of American history.”

Biden appeared to be completely surprised, turning away from the crowd to wipe away tears when President Obama announced that he would be bestowing the vice president with the medal.

Image Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

After accepting the honor, Biden told the crowd:

“This honor is a … it’s not only well beyond what I deserve, but it’s a reflection of the extent and generosity of your spirit. I don’t deserve this, but I know it came from the president’s heart.”

Biden also acknowledged when Obama offered financial help to the vice president when his son Beau was dying of cancer:

Through it all, the vice president was thankful for President Obama’s respect.

“There is no power in the vice presidency,” Biden added. “There is no inherent power, nor should there be. But Mr. President, you have more than kept your commitment to me by saying to me you wanted me to help govern.”

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