President Obama Surprises Biden With Presidential Medal of Freedom

A surprised Biden accepted the honor during a ceremony initially billed as a farewell tribute

President Barack Obama awarded a teary-eyed Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom Thursday, praising the vice president as an "extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service."

Obama said he's bestowing Biden, who appeared visibly stunned, with the nation's highest civilian honor for "faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations."

"For the first and only time in my presidency, I will bestow this medal with an additional level of veneration, an honor my three most recent successors have reserved for only three others: Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and Gen. Colin Powell," Obama said at a White House ceremony billed as a tribute dedicated to honoring the outgoing vice president.

Taking the podium, a surprised Biden said he had "no inkling." 

The vice president said he doesn't deserve the honor, but knows "it came from the president's heart."

Biden praised his wife and children for their support throughout his career, and praised the Obama family for their dedication to country and service.

"I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things," Biden said.

With Biden by his side, Obama says the tribute will give the Internet one last chance to joke about the "bromance" the two share.

He honored Biden’s lifetime of public service, including his decades in the Senate and eight years as president, from the Violence Against Women Act, diplomacy, his “cancer moonshot,” and “It’s On Us” campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

Obama says his choice of Biden was the "best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people."

Listing the influences in Biden's life, from the nuns who taught him in grade school, to his Senate colleagues, to his parents, the president commended the "Biden heart."

"His work does not capture the full measure of Joe Biden, I haven’t even mentioned Amtrak, aviators, and 'literally,'” he quipped.

Noting that Biden's career is "nowhere close to finished," Obama says his vice president will go on to have an impact domestically and internationally.

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