‘Welcome home, Joe’: Biden is back after eight years as the nation’s vice president

Photos special to the Delaware State News/Jon Lloyd Jr.

WILMINGTON — It was hard not to draw contrasts between the ceremonies honoring President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday.

President Trump was formally inaugurated in Washington as the nation’s 45th chief executive and, just a few hours later, Mr. Biden stood before a roaring crowd of more than a thousand people back in his home state.

Though no one explicitly cited President Trump by name during the hourlong series of speeches, there were several apparent or outright references to him, from Sen. Tom Carper saying “Leaders don’t build walls, they build bridges” to Sen. Chris Coons speaking of a country “where all God’s children have a space.”

Both senators are Democrats.

The former vice president, also a Democrat, left Washington shortly after the inauguration. He professed his gratefulness to the people of Delaware, reflected on his 46 years as an elected government official and offered a look to the future.

Borrowing a message from his July speech at the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Biden said he remains fully confident in the United States.

“There’s no quit in America. There’s no quit in the American people,” he said. “There’s nothing that’s beyond our capacity. I really mean that. There’s nothing beyond our capacity.”

Mr. Biden attended the inauguration of President Trump and then, as he did so many times over the decades, boarded a train back to Wilmington. Alongside Delaware’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Carney, he then was taken to the Chase Center, where an adoring audience waited.

Chants of “Joe! Joe! Joe!” broke out as he took the stage. Mr. Biden returned the love.

“When I die, Delaware will be written on my heart,” he said.

Talking softly and with emotion in his voice for most of his speech, he thanked Delaware for its support over the years. He particularly noted how the state embraced him and his family after his eldest son, Beau, died in 2015.

He also chimed in on President Trump, saying he and former President Barack Obama would be available to offer help.

President Trump “does not know where he’s going,” Mr. Biden said. The remark drew laughs and cheers. But Mr. Biden quickly added it was not intended as a criticism.

“This is a man who’s never been engaged in public life before,” he said.

Signs throughout the Chase Center — both handmade and mass-printed — welcomed Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, home.

“Home is where your character is at, it’s where your values are shaped and where your view of the world is formed,” Mr. Biden said.

Sen. Carper offered a look back at the past eight years of the Obama-Biden administration, citing the decline in unemployment, the Iran deal and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Biden, who was briefly overcome by emotion at one point, reflected on his career as an elected official, starting as a New Castle County councilman from 1970 to 1972. In 1972, he won an election for U.S. Senate and then served from 1973 to 2009, when he became vice president.

It all came full circle, he said, remembering working as a public defender and interviewing clients at the Wilmington train station and then, decades later, waiting at the same place for the train that would take him to Washington to be sworn in as vice president.

While he has offered only hints at what he will do now, Mr. Biden does intend to keep leading the “moonshot” effort to cure cancer, which claimed the life of Beau Biden.

Whatever he does, the former vice president will have many, many supporters.

“I’m so glad he’s not going anywhere. He’s just coming home,” U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said.

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