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Vice President Joe Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden talks about his new book with author Lea Carpenter Thursday at the Trabant University Center.

Biden brings his book tour to UD

Photo by Evan Krape

Joe Biden speaks about his memories of his late son Beau

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to hundreds of University of Delaware students, faculty, staff and visitors on Thursday, Nov. 16, about his newly released book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. The book recounts Biden’s experience of trying to balance his son Beau’s brain cancer diagnosis and eventual death with his responsibilities as vice president. A deeply personal story — complete with some of Biden’s diary entries from the time — Biden said his goal is to tell the world what a great man his son was.

The event was sponsored by UD’s Biden Institute, of which he is the founding chair, and this stop on Biden’s American Promise Tour was held in the Multipurpose Room of the Trabant University Center. Following a brief introduction by his sister and book tour manager, Valerie Biden Owens, Joe Biden walked out to a standing ovation. He spent the next hour remembering his son Beau while also sharing heartfelt nuggets about his entire family.  

Author Lea Carpenter, who was friends with Beau and his brother Hunter growing up, moderated the event. She mentioned Beau was known to be a jokester, and asked Joe Biden if he could share a memory. Biden recounted Beau’s annoyance with his father’s tendency to spend lots of time talking with people.

“He’d say, ‘Dad, look just say hi. You’re busy. Just say hi. Don’t call his mother or father,’ ” Joe Biden told the audience. “Because my tendency is, they’ll say my mother loves you, and I’ll say, ‘Well get her on the phone.’ ”

The audience laughed in response.

As Joe Biden continued speaking and sharing stories about Beau, he made it clear how much he truly respected and admired his son.

“At some point in my life, it's the strangest thing to say and maybe it’s happened to you guys, but I started looking up to my sons,” said Joe Biden. “I mean not just loving them, but looking up to them as models. As what I wanted to be more like.”

The discussion went on to focus on one of the larger points of the book, handling grief. Carpenter read a passage from the book, in which Joe Biden writes, “One thing I have grown especially attuned to over the years is just how many people are quietly and uncomplainingly suffering psychic and emotional pain at any given moment. It amazes me how many people there are that endure and live with devastating loss, with nowhere near the support that I have, and get up every single day.”

Joe Biden often returned to the idea that he hoped his book would be a message of hope for those who are suffering. He encouraged the audience to give a helping hand to those that may need it.

“I think it’s important we all understand that little tiny things we can do for people we know that are going through something, just little things, make an enormous difference,” said Biden.

He made a point to thank the audience, for their support throughout his and Beau’s political runs.

“Most of you are Delawareans,” Biden told Thursday’s audience. “I can’t tell you what an incredible honor it has been to serve this state. This state itself and the people in this state have been with me for every triumph and for every tragedy.”  

“This was an amazing experience,” said UD senior Amanda Fountain. “I found myself crying throughout just because I think he can really evoke emotion, and he kind of spoke about all the empathy that he experienced after the loss of his son and I just think he also is a very empathetic person just from hearing him speak. I definitely think he connected with people.”

Copies of Promise Me, Dad are available at the Barnes and Noble University of Delaware Bookstore, 83 East Main St., Newark. It is currently on sale at $18.90, a discount of 30 percent off the list price.

For a photo gallery from the event, click here.

About the Biden Institute

The Biden Institute, part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) at UD, is a research and policy center, focusing on solutions to issues ranging from economic reform and environmental sustainability to civil rights, criminal justice, women’s rights and more.

Each semester, the institute plans to focus on a specific area of policy, with a goal of shaping the public conversation in that area and affecting policymaking at the local, state and federal levels.

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