U.S. President, Barack Obama, in a surprise tribute, has decorated Vice President, Joe Biden with the highest civilian honour – Medal of Freedom.
“For your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations,” Obama said as he bestowed the honour on Biden.
“For my final time as President, I am pleased to award our nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Obama added.
The President bestowed the honour on Mr Biden with “an additional level of veneration” – making him the fourth person in US history to receive the award, along side Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
A teary-eyed Biden accepted the honour at a special White House ceremony. “I had no inkling,” Biden said after receiving the medal, as he never knew the ceremony was being planned.
He accepted the honour in a tearful speech, thanking the President, his staff, his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and First Lady Michelle Obama.
“I get a lot of credit I don’t deserve because I’ve had so many people to lean on,” Biden said.
“Mr President, you know that with good reason there is no power in the vice presidency… and there is no inherent power, nor should there be,” he said. “Mr President, you have more than kept your commitment to me by saying that you wanted me to help government.
“Every single thing you’ve asked me to do, Mr President, you have trusted me to do. And that is a remarkable thing.”
The citation with the medal noted Biden’s “charm, candor, unabashed optimism and deep and abiding patriotism,” as well as his “strength and grace to overcome great personal adversity.” It called him one of the most “consequential vice presidents in American history.”
Watch the full ceremony here:
Photo Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images