"This is an
extraordinary man," Obama said of his friend and running mate at
a surprise ceremony with staff, family and friends of the vice
"For the past eight years, he could not have been a more devoted
or effective partner in the progress that we've made."
Biden, who was unaware that the ceremony would take place,
became visibly moved when Obama said he would bestow on him the
highest civil honor in the United States.
It will be the last such award that Obama gives before he and
Biden leave office on Jan. 20.
"I had no inkling," Biden, 74, said after receiving the medal.
"I get a lot of credit I don't deserve," he said, proceeding to
give a roughly 20-minute impromptu speech thanking Obama and
honoring the extended Biden family.
Biden and Obama became close friends during their time in the
White House. Biden was a U.S. senator from Delaware when Obama
chose him to be his running mate in his 2008 presidential
The vice president told an anecdote about Obama offering to help
the Bidens financially during Biden's son Beau's illness. Beau
Biden died of brain cancer at age 46 in 2015.
First lady Michelle Obama and the Obamas' daughters, Malia and
Sasha, also attended the ceremony.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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