Delaware welcomes back the Bidens [video]

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

Delaware welcomes back Joe and Jill Biden with love and a wealth of warm heartfelt words as the former vice president and second lady of the United States made their way back to Wilmington.

The man who first made a tremendous impact as a local and state leader in Delaware was moved to tears.

“When I die Delaware will be written on my heart,” said Biden as he touched his chest.

Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens organized the “Welcome Home” event which all took place at the Chase Center on the Riverfront on Friday. She pointed to several of her brother’s accomplishments.

“Right here in our city of Wilmington in 1970, Joe began his public career as a New Castle County councilman. In 1972 through to 2008 he boarded the train everyday here in Wilmington to go back and forth to Washington as our United States senator,” said Owens who shared that Joe married Jill in 1978 and as a result Jill joined Joe in serving the people of Delaware.

Owens acknowledged from the stage that today was special for another reason.

“In January 2009, we all sent Joe and Jill to Washington together,” said Owens. She added that the couple’s send-off party took place from the same location where hundreds gathered on Friday.

Everyone from U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons as well as Governor John Carney came to welcome back their longtime friend and political liaison.

Another was Wilmington mayor Mike Purzycki who took to the stage to paint Biden in a very different light than his political friends. Purzycki met Biden in 1963 when the two were students at the University of Delaware.

“Joe always looked like he was ready for a job interview, and it was almost as if he said opportunity is coming and I’m going to be dressed right when it shows up here,” Purzycki said.

Purzycki told the crowd that he knew Joe was going to be something special but didn’t know how special.

“I can look back at 1963 for just a minute and just think to myself who would have ever guessed that two teenagers, both 18 and 19 at the time, that one of those kids would become mayor of the City of Wilmington and have the opportunity to welcome back the vice president of the United States,” said Purzycki who called Biden one of the greatest statesman of this century.

In the crowd, people also had good things to say about “Joe” as well as his accomplishments.

“It’s actually hard to put in words when it comes to all he had been able to accomplish. It’s just good to have him back,” said Grandville Brown of Wilmington.

Richard Bond came to celebrate Biden and support his niece who performed with the University of Delaware band during the welcome home ceremony.

“He was able to represent Delaware down in D.C. for eight years,” said Bond who added that his niece also performed during the 2008 Inauguration of President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Malinda Girardi who worked with Jill Biden at Delaware Technical Community College said she’s touched by several of Biden’s accomplishments.

“There are so many things but definitely his view on women and women’s rights and being treated equally and paid equally for their jobs. I think he realized we work twice as hard and make half as much,” said Girardi who’s also proud of Biden and his desire to look into more cancer research. “I think he’s going to make a real difference.”

Others were touched by Biden because of the relationship he had with the United States first African-American president.

“My biggest thing is the comradery between the two of them. I saw just recently how tight knit they were but they didn’t have to say it, you can tell just based on conversations they had and the way they related to each other throughout the eight years they were together. So the comradery at that level of government speaks volumes to me” said Ken Palmer who admitted to meeting Biden several times at events held at the Chase Center where he works as a technician.

Willie Henry of Advancing Strategic Innovations, a management consultant firm in Wilmington also expressed excitement about Biden’s return.

“This is a very exciting day. I represent small businesses. I’m an ex-corporate guy and Joe Biden truly understands some of the needs and requirements of small business people. So I’m very happy he’s going to be returning and be here locally as we move to the next phase of moving this country forward,” Henry said.

During the last few days of the Obama Administration, Biden was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The former vice president believed it was an honor that he just didn’t deserve.

But U.S. Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester, Delaware’s first African-American to be elected to represent the state gave a few reasons why Biden did deserve the medal.

“I know that you said you didn’t deserve it, but you tell the millions of Americans who now have healthcare, you deserve it. The millions of people who can now have a job and maintain their jobs, you deserve it. The millions of people who can now marry, you deserve it. People around the world who are safer because you were also the consummate statesman and just a diplomat for our country, you deserve it. We never say that our vice president is wrong but on this one you deserve it,” Rochester said.

Biden said he will always remember how Delaware embraced his family, especially during the loss of his first wife and their daughter. He also expressed thanks for all those who supported his family when he lost his son Beau to cancer two years ago. Biden said his public service was made possible because of the people of Delaware.

“You’ve always been with me,” Biden said. 

“Home is where your character is etched, it’s where your values are shaped and where your view of the world is formed. My character, my values, my view of the world, comes from this state and all of you.”

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