Joe Biden was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Joseph R. Biden Sr. and Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Biden. His parents were working class Catholics. Biden was one of four siblings. When he was 10 years old in 1953, Biden’s family moved to Claymont, Delaware where his father found work as a used car salesman.
Biden attended the Archmere Academy Catholic prep school, where he played football and baseball. He struggled with a stutter when he was younger, but was able to overcome it by memorizing long passages of poetry and reciting them out loud in front of the mirror.
|Joseph R. Biden Jr.
|Date of Birth
|November 20, 1942
|Place of Birth
|Joseph R. Biden Sr. (Father)
|Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Biden (Mother)
In 1961, Biden graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in history and political science. He went on to attend law school at Syracuse University, graduating in 1968. During this time, he married his first wife, Neilia Hunter. They had three children together: Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, Robert Hunter Biden, and Naomi Christina Biden.
Early Political Career
After earning his law degree, Biden moved his family to Wilmington, Delaware and began practicing at a law firm. He soon became active in local Democratic politics, joining the New Castle County Council in 1970. Two years later in 1972 at just 29 years old, Biden launched a successful campaign for one of Delaware’s seats in the U.S. Senate.
Tragically just a few weeks after the election, Biden’s wife Neilia and daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident while Christmas shopping, leaving Biden to care for his two young sons who were critically injured in the crash. Despite calls to resign from the Senate, Biden was sworn in next to the hospital beds of Beau and Hunter in January 1973.
What challenges did Biden face early in his political career?
Biden faced devastating personal tragedy just weeks after being elected to the Senate for the first time in 1972 when his wife Neilia and young daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident. Biden contemplated resigning from his Senate seat to care for his surviving young sons Beau and Hunter who were critically injured in the crash, but was persuaded to take office by Senate leaders.
This family tragedy shaped the beginning of Biden’s long Senate career. He chose not to move to Washington, D.C. and instead commuted daily from Wilmington to D.C. so he could be home with his sons every night.
Over the next few decades, Biden established himself as an influential voice in the Senate, earning positions on the influential Senate Judiciary and Senate Foreign Relations Committees. He remarried in 1977 to Jill Jacobs, an educator, and they had one daughter together named Ashley Blazer Biden. As a senator, Biden focused on issues relating to criminal justice, drug policy, and foreign relations.
He served as the chair or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for sixteen years and was deeply involved in crafting anti-crime legislation and bills related to terrorism and drug policy throughout the 1980s and 1990s. On foreign policy, Biden voted against authorization for the Gulf War in 1991 but later advocated for U.S. intervention in the Bosnian War in the mid-1990s.
In 2008, Biden launched his own presidential bid but withdrew after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. He was selected by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to be his running mate, and Biden brought years of foreign policy experience to balance Obama’s candidacy.
After winning the hard-fought election in November 2008, Obama and Biden took office in January 2009 and inherited a country going through immense crises – from an economic recession and failing financial system to protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Biden proved to be an influential vice president and close confidante to Obama throughout their eight years in the White House. Biden oversaw administration efforts to rebuild the economy after the Great Recession, helped formulate counterterrorism strategy, and undertook numerous diplomatic missions abroad to troubleshoot foreign policy crises in places like Ukraine, Iraq, Guatemala, and Turkey.
What were some of Biden’s major accomplishments as vice president?
- Oversaw the infrastructure spending and stimulus programs to counter the Great Recession, helping restore economic growth
- Helped formulate counterterrorism strategies including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden
- Led diplomatic missions to resolve foreign crises in Ukraine, Central America, Iraq and Turkey
- Advocated for women’s rights and raising the minimum wage
- Played a major role in drafting the landmark Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which expanded health insurance coverage
- Pushed for criminal justice reform and gun control legislation, though efforts were largely blocked by Congress
Later Life and 2020 Election
Although Biden planned to retire from public office after serving two terms as vice president under Obama, the controversial results of 2016 election drew him back into political life. Still mourning the loss of his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015, Biden became an outspoken critic of President Trump’s rhetoric and policies. After much public speculation, he announced his own candidacy for president in April 2019.
Biden immediately emerged as the Democratic frontrunner, touting his legacy as Obama’s vice president and his strong connections to the working class. While he encountered criticism at times from the more progressive wing of the party, Biden’s perseverance and grit resonated with voters. He reminded the country of his long record of overcoming adversity in both his political career and personal life. Biden clinched the turbulent Democratic primary by March 2020 and looked ahead to challenging Trump in the general election.
However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically upended both campaigns. For months, Biden was confined to virtual campaigning from his basement while Trump continued to hold rallies and public events. Additional challenges arose in managing the economic fallout of the pandemic and addressing a renewed civil rights movement catalyzed by police violence.
But Biden presented himself as a steady, experienced hand that could heal the battered nation. Emphasizing compassion and unity over divisiveness, his message broke through to key voting blocs in critical swing states. When votes were finally counted, Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States on November 7, 2020. At age 78, he became the oldest president ever to take office.
How did Biden manage to defeat Trump in the contentious 2020 election?
Despite trailing Trump for most of the lengthy campaign, Biden’s fortunes turned around in the final stretch before election day due to several factors:
- Strong debate performances that contrasted his steady leadership with Trump’s chaos
- A consistent focus on compassion and unity while avoiding inflaming tensions
- The Democratic base rallied around enthusiasm for removing Trump
- Struggled early on with progressive wing but earned their votes by working with Bernie Sanders
- Earned key endorsements from party moderates like Jim Clyburn and John Kasich
- Made significant inroads with constituencies that tipped key swing states:
- White working-class voters in Rust Belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania
- Suburban women voters turned off by Trump’s rhetoric
- Boost in support from communities of color
- Avoiding large rallies due to pandemic proved wise as Trump rallies fueled viral spread
- Trump’s widely panned handling of COVID-19 crisis turned many voters against him
- Stayed focused on kitchen table issues and empathy amidst national crises
In the end, Biden’s steady approach, heartfelt life story, and promise to heal divides prevailed in the battleground states still reeling from Trump-era tensions.
Biden entered the White House facing an unprecedented confluence of crises – from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to economic turmoil, racial injustice, and climate change. He immediately got to work passing his $1.9 trillion emergency stimulus and relief package called the “American Rescue Plan,” fulfilling his campaign promises for providing additional economic aid for Americans hard-hit by the pandemic.
This included stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, resources for vaccinations, funds for schools to reopen safely, support for small businesses, state and local governments, and more. The swift passage of this legislation marked a significant early victory for the Biden administration in tackling simultaneous health and economic crises.
What were Biden’s other major domestic accomplishments in his first two years in office?
- Infrastructure Investment: Biden signed a landmark $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to rebuild America’s aging roads, bridges, rails, ports, electric grid, and broadband internet access. It marked a major investment in updating national infrastructure not seen since the construction.
- Gun Reform: Biden signed the most significant gun reform legislation in 30 years in the aftermath of several horrific mass shootings. The bipartisan bill enhances background checks for younger buyers, cracks down on gun trafficking, and provides new funding for mental health services and school safety resources.
- Climate Change: The Inflation Reduction Act signed by Biden represents the largest climate investment in U.S. history. It provides nearly $370 billion in funding for initiatives to accelerate the transition to clean energy and reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. This includes tax credits for renewable power, electric vehicles, and energy efficient home improvements as well as penalties for oil and gas producers who exceed emissions thresholds.
- Marriage Equality: In a major step for LGBTQ rights, Biden signed legislation to codify federal protections for same-sex marriage. It requires all states to legally recognize same-sex marriages, ensuring the protections of the 2015 Obergefell Supreme Court decision are enshrined in federal law.
However, Biden has also faced struggles advancing the rest of his domestic agenda, as efforts on issues like voting rights legislation, abortion protections, police reform and further expansions of the social safety net have largely stalled in Congress. Rising inflation presenting economic challenges for the administration as well.
Approval ratings for Biden and Democrats tanked in his first two years. But the president hopes delivering concrete victories on long-time priorities like infrastructure, climate, and marriage equality will ultimately prevail with voters as his term continues.
On the world stage, Biden has focused on rallying alliances weakened under Trump and reasserting U.S. global leadership. His administration has rejoined international agreements like the World Health Organization and Paris Climate Accords. Biden also completed the turbulent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021 after 20 years of war. However Russia’s escalating invasion of Ukraine starting in 2022 confronted Biden with one of his greatest foreign policy challenges yet.
How has Biden approached the crisis in Ukraine?
Biden has spearheaded a remarkably unified global coalition supporting Ukraine by:
- Rallying NATO and G7 alliances to stay aligned on punitive financial sanctions crippling Russia
- Shipping tens of billions of dollars in military, economic and humanitarian aid directly to Ukraine
- Warning stark consequences if Russia crosses red line with chemical weapons or attacks NATO territory
- Walking tightrope between supporting Ukraine while avoiding direct U.S.-Russia military conflict
While faces criticism from all sides and the endgame remains uncertain, Biden’s balancing act has managed to sustain Western unity and bolster Ukraine’s defenses for nearly a year since the invasion began. But additional tests remain on simmering tensions over Taiwan and how to manage the rise of China’s global influence.
In his first term in office, President Biden has faced one of the most formidable constellations of crises to challenge an incoming administration. But the president has leveraged his nearly half a century of experience in national politics to deliver major results with bipartisan wins on infrastructure investment, gun reform, marriage equality, climate initiatives and support for Ukraine. Biden has already etched a durable legacy of progress on issues where previous administrations have repeatedly failed.
However, Biden’s presidency remains a work in progress. Formidable obstacles around soaring inflation and Republican opposition threaten to undercut momentum. And the ultimate judgment of history rests on his ability to continue uniting allies and marshaling global coalitions over the full duration of his term to effectively confront generational challenges both at home and abroad.
But Biden’s perseverance through past adversity has cemented an unyielding grit – indispensable for navigating the continuing storms swirling around his presidency. Few would count Joe Biden out as his term marches onward to its final chapters and the long sweep of history comes into clearer focus.
FAQs about Joe Biden’s Life and Presidency
What childhood struggles did Joe Biden face?
Biden struggled with a significant stutter from an early age, enduring bullying but eventually overcoming the speech impediment through rigorous practice reciting poetry and delivering speeches. The early adversity shaped his tenacious determination in the face of obstacles throughout his long career.
How many times did Joe Biden run for president before winning?
Biden ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1988 and 2008 before finally succeeding two decades later in 2020 on his third attempt. His previous failed runs became lessons that informed Biden’s winning playbook.
Who are Joe Biden’s surviving family members?
Biden has two sons who are still living – Hunter Biden, an attorney who has faced past controversy but now serves as an artist based in Los Angeles, and Beau Biden, an Iraq War veteran and former Attorney General of Delaware who sadly passed away from brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. Jill Biden serves as First Lady and is a lifelong educator with a doctorate degree.
What is President Biden’s position on immigration policy?
Biden reversed many of Trump’s controversial immigration restrictions implemented by executive order. But Biden’s boldest immigration reforms calling for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants have been stalled in Congress by Republicans and some moderates so far.
What historic Supreme Court justice did Biden lead the fight to confirm?
As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1993, Joe Biden led the successful fight to confirm Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. The two developed a close friendship during Ginsburg’s pioneering tenure until her passing in September 2020.