Beau Biden, son of the vice president and former Delaware attorney general, dies at 46
Paul Begala: In his constant commitment to the powerless, Beau echoed his powerful father.
Editor’s Note: Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
In his moving tribute to Beau Biden, President Barack Obama wrote, “The Bidens have more family than they know.” He is right. More family than they could possibly know. Today, we are all Bidens.
“Life breaks us all,” Hemingway said. “But some emerge stronger at the broken places.”
Joe Biden is such a man. He was not merely touched by tragedy, he was coldcocked by it. Among the youngest people ever to win election to the Senate, before he could be sworn in, he was laid low. Cruel fate took his wife and daughter and landed both his boys in the hospital, grievously injured.
Somehow Joe Biden rose to take that oath, then rose to near-universal respect in the Senate – all the while commuting four hours every single day so he could rise and shine with his boys each morning and kiss them goodnight each evening.
It seems unimaginably, heartbreakingly cruel that one of those bedridden Biden boys has been taken in his prime.
Beau Biden grew to serve his country in war, his state in office and his family with his every breath. I did not know him well, but that never stopped Beau from greeting me with a hug, a knowing joke, a caring thought. Whatever “it” is, Beau had it by the bushel: brains, courage, talent – and especially compassion. And he came by those gifts honestly.
It is a mystery why some people, when shattered, not only grow stronger; they grow more compassionate. Others harden their hearts, and who could blame them?
But Joe Biden and his boys opened theirs. Compassion. It means literally to suffer with. Somehow Joe Biden has – despite his pain or could it be because of it? – spent decades helping others by shouldering a bit of their burden.
Speaking to the families of fallen military service members in 2012, Vice President Biden spoke beautifully from his own bitter experience: “There will come a day,” he told those heartbroken families, “I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”
Everyone who knows Joe Biden knows his kinship with the crushed. He shares his scars with them; he preaches from his pain. He has given transfusions of courage to countless heartbroken families.
Beau had that same quality. He enlisted in the Army, earned a Bronze Star and served as Delaware’s attorney general. As attorney general, he was drawn to protect the vulnerable. He created a Child Predator Task Force, winning 214 convictions against those who devastate families and prey upon defenseless kids. He also led on the issue of bullying, not the typical fare of swashbuckling prosecutors. In his constant commitment to the powerless, Beau echoed his powerful father.
How can it be that Joe Biden once more has to bury a child? As he prepares to, so many who love him turn to Scripture. Others to Yeats. Me, I keep hearing a favorite hymn that my fellow Catholic Joe Biden has cited numerous times:
“And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.”
In life, Beau shone like the sun. In death, may God hold him in the palm of his hand.