"To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware's favorite son: You were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best", Obama said in Chicago on Tuesday. The president himself put the medal on the Vice President, leaving Biden understandably overwhelmed. When concluding his remarks, he surprised Biden by announcing the honor, a medal of freedom with distinction.
A tearful Biden was overcome with emotion as Obama placed the medal around his neck and the two leaders embraced.
Biden said he "had no inkling" that the president was going to pay him tribute at the ceremony, which he believed was going to be a look back at the journey of the last eight years.
In remarks billed as a joint farewell to family, friends and staff before they leave the White House next week, Obama described Biden as "the finest vice-president we have ever seen" and a "lion of American history".
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"To know Joe Biden is to know that love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully", Obama said. Pope John Paul II, president Ronald Reagan and general Colin Powell. "I don't deserve this but I know it came from the President's heart".
"Mr President, you got right the part about my leaning on Jill but I've also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room".
The president also reflected on his decision to choose Biden as his vice president, saying, "There has not been a single time that I've doubted the wisdom of that decision. this is an extraordinary man".
"Every single thing you've asked me to do, Mr President, you have trusted me to do".