Vice President Joseph Biden speaks after receiving the 2016 Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics at Notre Dame’s 171st Commencement Ceremony on May 15, 2016.
Vice President Biden was a co-recipient of the award with former Speaker of the House John Boehner. They received the award, not as an endorsement for the policy positions of either, but to celebrate two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and his law degree from Syracuse University College of Law. At age 29 he became one of the youngest people ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Soon after his election, his wife and infant child were tragically killed in an automobile accident, yet he persevered in caring for his family as a single parent and in serving in the Senate. He represented Delaware for 36 years before his election as vice president in 2008.
In the Senate, Biden served as chairman or ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for 17 years and played an integral role in the 1994 Crime Law and the Violence Against Women Act. He also served for 12 years as chair or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helping to guide issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East and Southwest Asia.