Vice President Joe Biden: Biography, Characteristics & Facts

Instructor: Michelle Penn

Michelle has a J.D. and her PhD in History.

Joe Biden has overcome family sorrows and personal difficulties to achieve political success and to make change in the world by encouraging cancer research.

Joe Biden: Overcoming Tragedy

Joe Biden's outgoing and talkative nature belies the personal tragedies he has overcome in his life. Listening to Biden talk, you would never have guessed that he was a stutterer as a child, but that was just another thing that Biden has prevailed over in his life.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden picture

Early Life: Overcoming his Stutter and Becoming a Lawyer and Parent

Joseph Robinette Biden was born to Irish-American Catholic parents, Catherine and Joseph Biden Sr., in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 20, 1942. Biden soon had one younger sister, Valerie, and two younger brothers James and Frank. By the 1950s, Joe's father had trouble finding work in Scranton, so they moved to Delaware in 1953, where his father became a used-car salesman.

Young Biden had a stutter as a child, but as he recalled ''I forced myself'' to get over the stutter by memorizing and practicing long speeches. That is dedication, and Biden became so good at giving speeches that he became class president.

After graduation in 1961, Biden went to the University of Delaware to study history and political science. During his junior year, Biden met Neilia Hunter, the woman who would become his wife. Biden then went to law school and married Neilia. In 1968, Biden graduated law school and even though he was not a very political person, he decided to become a Democrat, in part because of his dislike for then-President Richard Nixon.

Biden's personal life also changed rapidly. In 1969, Neilia gave birth to their son Beau. The next year, they had another son, Hunter, and then in 1971, Neilia gave birth to a daughter, Naomi.

Personal Tragedy Amid Political Success

In 1970, Biden ran for the local county council in Delaware. Biden won and decided to aim for higher political offices. In 1972, he ran for senator, and won, becoming the youngest member of the senate at the age of 30.

Unfortunately, Biden was not able to celebrate his success for very long. Only a few weeks after the election, his wife Neilia and three children were in a car accident. Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed, and his sons Beau (three-years-old) and Hunter (two-years-old) were seriously injured. The following month, Biden was sworn into the Senate from his son Beau's hospital bedside, as both sons were still recovering from their injuries. Even though Biden was becoming a senator, his children were still his number one priority.

Biden's sister Valerie and her husband helped Biden take care of his sons in Delaware while he was away in Washington, D.C. Biden still lived in Delaware, commuting 90 minutes each way every work day; three hours of his day was spent commuting so he could be there for his children.

Dreams of the Presidency and Health Scare

Jill Biden
Jill Biden picture

A few years later, Biden found happiness again. He met Jill Jacobs, a high school English teacher who would eventually earn her Ph.D. They married in 1977, and four years later Jill gave birth to their daughter Ashley.

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