Joe Biden's Story
From Scranton to Wilmington to the White House—with thousands of train rides in between.
The Biden family loses a hero
Beau Biden, Attorney General of Delaware and Joe Biden’s eldest son, passes away after battling brain cancer with the same integrity, courage, and strength he demonstrated every day of his life. Beau’s fight with cancer inspires the mission of Joe’s life—ending cancer as we know it.
A New Leader
Joe starts a family.
Joe marries Neilia Hunter at St. Mary’s of the Lake in Skaneateles, New York. In the years to come, they have three children together—Joseph R. “Beau” Biden, III, Robert Hunter, and Naomi Christina.
The first campaign.
Joe practices law at a firm in Wilmington while also working part-time as a public defender. Later that year, he launches his first-ever campaign for the New Castle County Council, which he won by 2,000 votes.
A Cancer Moonshot
In his final State of the Union address, President Obama asks Joe to head up a new national effort to end cancer as we know it—he ends up calling it his “Cancer Moonshot,” with the goal of making a decade’s worth of advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in five years
Joe sticks up for the little guy—and never stops
As a member of the New Castle County Council, Joe fights against a massive 10-lane highway project that threatened to pave over Wilmington’s neighborhoods and push back on the oil companies building refineries on the Delaware coast.
“We have too often allowed our differences to prevail among us. We have too often allowed ambitious men to play off those differences for political gain. We have too often retreated behind our differences when no one really tried to lead us beyond them.”
– Joe Biden, announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, 1972
Victory turns to tragedy.
At age 29, Joe becomes one of the youngest people ever elected to the United States Senate. Weeks later, tragedy strikes the Biden family when Neilia and Naomi are killed and Hunter and Beau are critically injured in an auto accident.
The highest civilian honor
In a ceremony at the White House, President Obama awards Joe the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction—the nation’s highest civilian honor.
The Bidens head home.
After leaving the White House, the Bidens take their first Amtrak ride as private citizens in eight years back to their home in Delaware. In the months to come, they will continue their efforts to expand opportunity for every American with the creation of the Biden Foundation, the Biden Cancer Initiative, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, and the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware
A young voice in the Senate
The 120-mile commute.
Joe is sworn into the U.S. Senate at his sons’ hospital bedsides, and begins commuting from Wilmington to Washington every day, first by car and then by train, in order to tuck his sons in bed at night and see them get up in the morning. He will continue to do so throughout his time in the Senate. For five years, Joe raises Beau and Hunter as a single father, with the help of his sister Valerie and his family.
An early voice for campaign finance reform.
Joe first calls for the public financing of campaigns in the early 1970s. In the decades to come, he’ll continue to take action to restore and strengthen our democratic institutions, starting with protecting the right to vote.
“The United States Constitution says We the People. Not We the Donors.”
– Joe on campaign finance reform
Joe marries Jill Jacobs
Beau and Hunter tell their dad that it’s time to ask Jill Jacobs, then a high school English teacher, to marry them. They marry at the United Nations Chapel in New York City in 1977. Jill leaves teaching to become a full-time mom—and in 1980, their family is complete with the birth of Ashley Blazer, named by her brothers. A lifelong educator, Jill will go on to earn her doctorate in education and return to teaching as an English professor at a community college in Virginia
A leader on arms control.
A leader on arms control.
Joe leads a delegation of senators to meet with Kremlin officials in Moscow to present U.S. conditions for the ratification of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks–SALT II. It is the beginning of his decades-long leadership on nuclear arms control and strategic security negotiations to keep the American people safe, prevent an unchecked nuclear arms race, and establish norms of international conduct. Later, as Vice President, he will be critical to Senate approval of the New START Treaty with Russia, which brings deployed strategic nuclear weapons by the two countries to the lowest level in history.
One of the first climate change bills.
Joe calls for action to address climate change and protect the environment before it was a mainstream issue, introducing the Global Climate Protection Act. Later, as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, he organizes several hearings on climate change and rallies support on a number of non-binding resolutions on the issue, in an attempt to build momentum for action to address climate change.
“Was Joe Biden a climate change pioneer in Congress? History says yes”
A leader in the Senate.
A leader in the Senate
As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 16 years, Joe is widely recognized for his work writing and spearheading the Violence Against Women Act and blocking Jeff Sessions’ and Robert Bork’s nominations to the bench.
Taking on the NRA.
Joe takes on the National Rifle Association and wins—twice. In 1993, he secures the passage of the Brady background check bill, ushering the bill through conference and defeating an NRA-supported filibuster. And in 1994, he champions the passage of bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Addressing the scourge of violence against women.
At a time when gender-based violence is still considered a “family issue,” Joe writes and spearheads the Violence Against Women Act—the landmark legislation that criminalizes violence against women, creates unprecedented resources for survivors of assault, and changes the national dialogue on domestic and sexual assault.
As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years, Senator Biden plays a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. He is at the forefront of issues and legislation related to ending Apartheid, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.
A running mate becomes a friend for life
“He’s an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are rooted firmly in the middle class. He has stared down dictators and spoken out for America’s cops and firefighters. He is uniquely suited to be my partner as we work to put our country back on track.”
– Barack Obama, introducing Joe Biden as his running mate
At a speech in Springfield, Illinois, Barack Obama announces Joe as his vice-presidential running mate. In the months and years to come, they become good friends, and their families grow close.
The 47th Vice President of the United States
As Vice President, Joe continues his leadership on important issues facing the nation and represents our country abroad—traveling over 1.2 million miles to more than 50 countries. Vice President Biden convenes sessions of the President’s Cabinet, leads interagency efforts, and works with Congress in his fight to raise the living standards of middle-class Americans, reduce gun violence, address violence against women, and end cancer as we know it.
The biggest economic recovery plan in the history of America.
President Obama turns to Joe to first help pass and then oversee the implementation of the Recovery Act—the biggest economic recovery plan in the history of the nation and our biggest and strongest commitment to clean energy. The President’s plan prevents another Great Depression, creates and saves millions of jobs, and leads to 75 uninterrupted months of job growth by the end of the Administration, which has continued until today. And Joe did it all with less than 1% in waste, abuse or fraud—the most efficient government program in our country’s history.
Millions of Americans gain the peace of mind of health insurance.
President Obama and Joe secure the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which will have reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 20 million by the time they leave office and banned insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
Joe speaks up for marriage equality
Vice President Biden vocally supports marriage equality for LGBTQ individuals at a time when most political pundits said it wasn’t a good idea. He later shows the same leadership by expressing early support for the Equality Act.
It all starts in a little house on North Washington Avenue.
Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. is born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the son of Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden and Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr., and the first of four children.
The Bidens move to Delaware.
When Joe is 10, the Biden family moves to Claymont, Delaware, to look for better work. It becomes the state Joe calls home.
“During my adolescent and college years, men and women were changing the country—Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy—and I was swept up in their eloquence, their conviction, the sheer size of their improbable dreams.”
Four more years
President Obama and Vice President Biden win reelection by sweeping margins.
“The President and I are going to do everything in our power to honor the memory of your children and your wives with the work we take up here today.”
– Remarks by the Vice President to families of gun violence victims, January 2013
Taking on the NRA, again.
After 26 first-graders and educators are killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Joe leads an effort to take more than two dozen actions to make our schools and communities safer, including improving the gun background check system and narrowing the gun show loophole.
Joe enrolls at the University of Delaware, where he double majors in history and political science. He goes on to Syracuse University, where he earns his law degree.