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Who is Joe Biden?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
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  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2014
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Joe Biden is a long term Democratic US Senator for the state of Delaware, has run for the presidency in two bids, and the vice presidency in 2008. The senator is well known for his lengthy and distinguished service in the US Senate, and has chaired some of its most influential committees, including the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on the Judiciary. Self-described as outspoken and blunt, and occasionally getting into trouble because he speaks “too much of his mind,” he is nevertheless highly respected by his senate colleagues of both parties.

Joe Biden was born Joseph Robinette Biden in 1942 to an Irish Catholic family in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Money was not plentiful and the family relocated to Delaware when Biden was ten. The senator credits his mother especially with convincing him to work hard in school, and Biden became the first member of his family to receive a college degree.

In addition to his bachelor’s degree in political science and history, Biden continued his education in law school, becoming an attorney in 1969. Biden’s early life was not always easy. Though well spoken today, he suffered from a severe stutter as a child, which was a point of major embarrassment and difficulty. With encouragement from family, he was able to resolve his stutter as he aged.

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Prior to graduating law school, Joe Biden met his first great love, Neilia, and the pair married in 1966. The family had three children together, but tragedy struck in 1972, just as Biden had successfully secured a seat in the US senate. His wife and infant daughter were killed in an automobile accident that also severely injured his two sons. At first Biden was determined to give up his seat, but his new colleagues in the Senate convinced him otherwise. This is perhaps when Joe Biden came to national attention for the first time, since he was sworn in at the hospital where his sons were still hospitalized.

Another thing that made Joe Biden unique was that as a new single father, he felt that he couldn’t uproot his children and move them from Delaware to Washington D.C. Instead, he made a promise to return home on the train from D.C. each night so that he could spend time with his two sons, who were not only recovering from injuries but from the grief of losing their mother. Even after his sons were grown, Biden has continued to come home each night, which to many signifies that the senator may be a long-time fixture in Washington, but is somewhat removed from the “old guard” of D.C. politics. In time Biden came home each night to not just his sons, but new wife Jill Tracy Jacobs, who he married in 1977, and their daughter Ashley, born in 1981.

As a senator, Joe Biden has worked in diverse ways. He champions the cause of the middle class, promoting legislation aimed at fair health care, fair wages, help with college and the like. He has also authored and co-authored bills that have helped increase law enforcement officers on the street or that have worked to reduce domestic violence against women. He is considered a foreign policy expert, who has used that expertise in forwarding US interests abroad.

Biden’s bids for the presidency occurred in 1987 and 2007. Both ended soon after the primaries had begun, and the first was marked by a charge of plagiarism. This charge deserves some exploration, since Biden was quoting from a stump speech where he had previously cited his source on numerous occasions. In 2007, Biden’s campaign ended early after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. In 2008 Barack Obama appointed Biden his running mate for the 2008 presidential election. Many people of both parties have called Joe Biden an excellent choice for the job, given his experience, intelligence and expertise in foreign affairs.

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