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Name: Biden, Joe
Current Position: Previous Vice-President

Joe Biden is a prime example of perseverance. Having endured personal tragedy, survived a near-death episode, and overcome more than a few political mistakes, Biden’s four-decade career as a US senator has now brought him to the White House as vice president.

Born Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., on November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden was raised in an Irish Catholic family with his two brothers (James and Francis) and sister (Valerie). His grandfather on his mother’s side served in the Pennsylvania state senate. His father, Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr., struggled at times to make ends meet while working as a car salesman, forcing the family to live for a period of time with the parents of his mother, Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan.
Biden’s family lived in Scranton until he was ten years old; then they moved to New Castle County, Delaware. For much of his childhood, he struggled with an embarrassing stutter, which he did not overcome until his twenties. He attended a Catholic prep school, Archmere Academy in Claymont, where he played both football and baseball, before going to college at the University of Delaware. While still in college, he met Neilia Hunter, who was attending Syracuse University, and the two began dating. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1965, Biden chose Syracuse to attend law school.
During his first year at Syracuse, he and Neilia got married. That same year, Biden was accused of plagiarizing part of a law review article. He blamed the matter on his lack of knowledge about proper citation. He received his law degree in 1968, and was admitted to the Delaware Bar the following year. Also in 1969, his first son, Joseph “Beau” Biden III was born. He and Neilia would have two more children: Robert (1970) and Naomi (1971).
After graduating from law school, Biden returned to Delaware to work as a public defender, and then started his own firm, Biden and Walsh. He quickly turned to politics, and his rise to prominence was even quicker. He was elected to the New Castle county council in 1970, served just two years before running for the US Senate in November 1972. He narrowly defeated two-term incumbent Republican James Caleb “Cale” Boggs (50.5%-49.1%). Biden was only 29, becoming one of the youngest senators in history (he turned 30 a couple weeks later, allowing him to assume the office as per the Constitution’s age requirement that senators be at least 30 years of age).
Biden’s joy over being elected to the Senate was short-lived. In December 18, 1972, his wife and children were in a terrible auto accident that killed Neilia and their infant daughter, Naomi. His two sons were seriously injured, and Biden asked to be sworn in to his new office while at the hospital where he stayed constantly. He considered resigning his seat, but ultimately decided to commute three-hours a day from Delaware to Washington, DC, in order to see his sons each day. Biden went on to win reelection five times and became Delaware’s longest-serving senator. As a senator, Biden commuted to work in Washington, D.C. by train.
In 1977, Biden married Jill Tracy Jacobs, a schoolteacher. They have one daughter, Ashley (born 1981). Most recently, Jill Biden taught English at Delaware Techinical Community College.
As a senator, Biden focused on foreign relations, criminal justice, and drug policy. From 1975 through 2008 he served on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, twice as its chair. He also served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee between 1987 and 1995, during which time Biden gained national attention for his opposition to the appointments of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court. Bork’s nomination was defeated in 1987, but Thomas was confirmed in 1991 after a particularly ugly political fight between Democrats and Republicans over Thomas’ qualifications and accusations of sexual harassment. Some Democrats were unhappy with Biden’s handling of the Judiciary Committee’s vetting of Thomas during hearings.
In between the Bork and Thomas battles, Biden ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988. He withdrew from the primary contest after another, and higher profile, case of plagiarism surfaced; it was revealed that parts of his campaign stump speech had been lifted from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock without appropriate attribution. That same year, Biden nearly died when he was struck down by two brain aneurysms. He eventually made a full recovery and returned to the Senate seven months later.
In 1991, Biden became an adjunct professor at the Wilmington, Delaware, branch of the Widener University School of Law. He has taught classes on constitutional law since then.
While serving in the Senate, Biden repeatedly took stances against the late-term-pregnancy procedure known as “partial birth abortion,” and he opposed public funding of abortion. But he has supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He considers the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 his most significant piece of legislation during his Senate tenure, and he helped push through legislation creating the office of Drug Czar, which oversees national drug-control policy.
On foreign affairs, Biden was opposed to the Gulf War in 1991. He urged US action in the late 1990s against Serbian forces to protect Kosovo, a breakaway ethnic Albanian province. In 2003, he voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion, but later became a critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the occupation. His son, Beau, now attorney general of Delaware, is also a member of the Delaware Army National Guard. Beau’s unit (the) was deployed to Iraq in November 2008.
Biden has been prone to verbal gaffes during his career. In June 2006, he offended Indian-Americans when he claimed a great relationship with them thanks to the fact that in Delaware, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” He stuck his foot in his mouth again in 2007, during his second campaign for president, when he remarked about Barack Obama’s candidacy, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” He also accidentally asked a wheelchair-bound politician in Missouri to “stand up” before a political rally.
Biden published his memoir, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, in 2007 in preparation for his second run for president. His campaign never gained traction, and he withdrew from the race after placing fifth in the Iowa Democratic caucus in January 2008.
On August 23, 2008, Obama announced that Biden would be his Democratic running mate. Biden was chosen to counterbalance attacks by Republicans that Obama lacked experience on foreign policy and national security matters. Biden also appealed to middle-class and blue-collar voters, and he was willing to aggressively challenge Republican nominee John McCain on key issues (a traditional role for vice presidential candidates).
Immediately after Biden joined the Democratic ticket, his son, Hunter, became a focus of attention. A founding partner of the lobbying firm, Oldaker, Biden & Belair, Hunter Biden’s lobbying on behalf of Catholic universities and Internet gambling interests flew in the face of Obama’s promise to not involve lobbyists in his administration. So the younger Biden announced he would quit working as a lobbyist to avoid any potential conflict of interest for his father. It also was revealed in the media that Hunter and Biden’s brother, James, were accused in two lawsuits of defrauding a former business partner and an investor of millions of dollars in a hedge fund deal that went sour.
Biden Voting Record (Project Vote Smart)
Joe Biden Bio (
Biden Fires Up the Gaffe-o-Matic (by Andrew Romano, Newsweek)
Notes from Biden, including a little slip of the tongue  (by Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Biden's Son, Brother Named in Two Suits (by Kimberly Kindy and Joe Stephens, Washington Post)
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