President Obama awarded outgoing Vice President Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday afternoon. Calling the former longtime Delaware senator "the best vice president America's ever had" and a "lion of American history," President Obama gave his White House partner the surprise award in an emotional ceremony, initially billed as a farewell. After extolling the job that Biden has done, President Obama ended it with the unexpected news that he was giving the vice president the nation's highest civilian honor, with distinction — a designation most recently given to President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Gen. Colin Powell.
"To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully," Obama said.
Overcome with tears and completely caught off guard by the award, Biden praised the president as "remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country" who had truly treated him like an equal partner in governance. "This honor is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it's a reflection of the generosity of your spirit," Biden told Obama. "I don't deserve this. But I know it came from the president's heart."
The two have enjoyed an unusually close working relationship over the past eight years, and Obama himself even joked at the outset of the ceremony that "this also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our 'bromance.' "
Throughout the ceremony it was evident not just how close the two men were but how close their families and staffs had become, and Obama said his "family is honored to call ourselves honorary Bidens."