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Joe Biden

Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States. At 78 years old, he is the oldest first-term president. His pick for VP, Kamala Harris, is the first female and the first Black and Asian American person elected vice president of the United States.

To call Biden a career politician may be an understatement. He first entered politics in 1971 and served in U.S. government for the vast majority of his time in office—currently more than 45 years.

Biden came into his presidency during a critical time in U.S. history. He outlined some of the current challenges, primarily the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, on his first day in office:

“Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now,” said Biden in his inaugural speech at the Capitol on January 20, 2021. “A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II. Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us.”
In his memoir, Promises to Keep, Biden described how is grandfather taught him two important pillars of politics: that no one or no group is above others and that politics is a matter of personal honor.

“If you do politics the right way," said Biden. "I believe, you can actually make people’s lives better.”

His theme during and after his 2020 presidential campaign was unity. “Today, on this January day,” he said during his inaugural speech, “my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation.”

Early Life and Career

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Catherine Eugenia (Jean) Finnegan Biden and Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr. When Joe was 10 years old he moved to Delaware, where he spent the rest of his youth and most of his adult life.

Biden has a stutter which has greatly improved with time and practice, but he says it affected his confidence as a child and it shaped his character as a grown person.

"I beat that stutter with a lot of hard work and with the support of my teachers and my family," says Biden in his book, Promises to Keep. "But I have never really let go of my impedimenta. It's not a heavy load, but it's always with me, like a touchstone, as a reminder that everybody carries his or her own burdens--most of them a lot bigger than mine--and nobody deserves to be made to feel smaller for having them, and nobody should be consigned to carry them alone."

Biden excelled at sports, and was active on his high school baseball and football team. He also played football briefly in college. He was class president his junior and senior year of high school, but was an unexceptional student throughout his academic career.

He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 and attended Syracuse Law School, where he obtained his J.D. in 1968.

Biden began his career in politics in with his election to the New Castle County Council in 1971. He ran for and won a U.S. Senate seat for Delaware in 1972, at the age of 29. A few weeks after his election, his wife Neilia and daughter Naomi were killed and sons Hunter and Beau were injured in a car accident. Afterward, he considered resigning, but was convinced to stay by fellow senators.

Biden served as Delaware’s U.S. senator from 1973 until 2009, when he was elected as Vice President for the Obama Administration. In 2017 he left public office until his election as President in 2020.

Biden ran for Democratic nominee for president a total of three times: first in 1988, then in 2008, and finally in 2020 when he was eventually elected.

Biden is the author of the books Promises to Keep and Promise Me, Dad. He is known for his love of ice cream, his devout Catholic faith, and his passion for sports, especially football.

Election 2020

The presidential election of 2020 was shaping up to be memorable from the very beginning. It was initially noteworthy for the record number of 29 Democratic candidates running for president. By early 2020, the Democratic primary race narrowed to between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Although a few candidates challenged the Republican presidential incumbent, Donald Trump, he faced little opposition and easily won the Republican primary.

After the Democratic primary elections, the race for president narrowed to largely between Trump and Biden. The COVID-19 pandemic altered the way some candidates ran their campaigns, with Biden campaigning primarily through virtual and online events, and eventually holding socially-distanced events. Trump continued to host events with large numbers of attendees, though many of these events were held outdoors or in large airplane hangars.

The pandemic also altered the method by which many people voted in the election. Instead of voting in person, millions of voters cast absentee or mail-in ballots due to social distancing guidelines and preferences.

The election was held on November 3, 2020, but vote tabulation took several days due to the overwhelming turnout and because in some states, ballots postmarked on election day but received after the election were required to be counted. The election became noteworthy for several reasons, including having the highest voter turnout and the highest percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election in over a hundred years. More than 155 million people voted in the 2020 election.

The results of the election eventually gave the victory to Joe Biden, who won the popular vote by 51.4 percent to Trump’s 46.9 percent (approximately 81,283,455 votes for Biden and 74,223,744 votes for Trump). Biden won 306 electoral votes and Trump won 232. Biden received the most votes ever for a candidate in a U.S. presidential election.

First Lady Jill Biden

Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden was born in Hammonton, New Jersey in 1951 to Bonny Jean Godfrey Jacobs and Donald Carl Jacobs. She spent much of her childhood in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and graduated from high school there in 1969. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in English from University of Delaware in 1975—the same year she met Joe Biden. Two years later, in 1977, Joe and Jill Biden married and she became the mother of Joe’s two sons, Beau and Hunter. The Bidens’ daughter, Ashley, was born in 1981.

She later went on to complete two Masters degrees, in Education and English, and received a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware.

Dr. Biden has often spoken of her commitment to teaching. She began her early career teaching 9th and 10th grade English, worked as a high school reading specialist, and taught history and English at a psychiatric hospital. Since 1993, she has taught at various community colleges and she is currently a professor of writing at Northern Virginia Community College. She is known as “Dr. B” to her students.

“Teaching is my internal compass;” she said in her memoir, Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself. “I can always count on it to steer me in the right direction.”

Jill Biden has been actively involved with cancer education and prevention since the mid-1990s when she founded the Biden Breast Health Initiative after several of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. She and Joe Biden later founded the Biden Cancer Initiative after losing their son Beau to brain cancer in 2015.

As First Lady, Dr. Biden says she will continue her work supporting education, military families, and cancer-fighting initiatives that she worked on during the Obama administration.

Dr. Biden is known as being a prankster, an avid runner, and for her fierce protective nature, which involved on a few occasions physically shielding Joe Biden from protestors during campaign events.

Dr. Biden's memoir, Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself, was published in 2019. She has also written two children’s books: Don’t Forget: God Bless Our Troops and JOEY: The Story of Joe Biden.

Sources and Further Reading

Jill Biden

Biden, Jill. (2019) Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself. Flatiron Books: New York.

Biden, Dr. Jill (author) and Colón, Raúl (illustrator). (2012) Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: New York.

White House Administration. Dr. Jill Biden. www.whitehouse.gov/administration/dr-jill-biden

Joe Biden

Biden, Joe. (2007). Promises to Keep: on life and politics. Random House: New York.

Reddy, Vinay. (2021) Inaugural Address by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/01/20/inaugural-address-by-president-joseph-r-biden-jr

White House Administration. Joe Biden. www.whitehouse.gov/administration/president-biden