In the months since he announced his 2020 presidential bid, Joe Biden has been hitting the campaign trail, where he's frequently brought up his beloved son, Beau Biden. Beau, who had served as attorney general of Delaware and is survived by his wife Hallie and children Natalie and Hunter, passed away from brain cancer in 2015. At the time of his death, Beau was 46 years old.
Joe and his family picked the then-president, Barack Obama, to deliver the eulogy at Beau's funeral. In the moving speech, Obama said of Beau: "He did in 46 years what most of us couldn’t do in 146. He left nothing in the tank. He was a man who led a life where the means were as important as the ends. And the example he set made you want to be a better dad, or a better son, or a better brother or sister, better at your job, the better soldier. He made you want to be a better person."
Joe and Beau had always been close. As a young boy, Beau had been hospitalized along with his brother Hunter following a car accident that killed his mom and Joe's wife, Neilia, as well as Beau's 1-year-old sister Naomi. His father held his Senate swearing-in at Beau's hospital bedside, and was dubbed "Amtrak Joe" while serving in office thanks to his commitment to heading home to his boys after work via train.
"By focusing on my sons, I found my redemption," Joe said in a Yale commencement speech in 2015. "The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through."
Beau agreed with his father that the accident tightly bonded the family: "One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always at our side. We, not the Senate, were all he cared about," Beau said at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
After college, Beau served in the military and won a Bronze Star. While serving as attorney general of Delaware, Beau announced that he would run for governor in 2016—until his diagnosis cut his burgeoning political career short.
In 2010, Beau had suffered a small stroke, and in 2013 he had a lesion removed from his brain. He underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat the cancer, but in 2015 his health rapidly declined over the course of a few weeks. Beau died in May 2015, at the age of 46. In a statement, the family wrote:
It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life...The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau’s spirit will live on in all of us—especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter.
Beau's death at a young age was a particularly public tragedy, since Joe was serving out his last years as Vice President at the time. Though rumors flew that Beau had encouraged his father to run for president on Beau's deathbed, Joe shot don the rumors in 60 Minutes interview in 2015. "Beau all along thought that I should run and I could win," he said. "But there was not what was sort of made out as kind of this Hollywood-esque thing that at the last minute Beau grabbed my hand and said, 'Dad, you've got to run, like, win one for the Gipper.' It wasn't anything like that."
According to a recent New York Times article, Joe has been actively connecting with constituents over this issue. According to the article: "'Some politicians have a sixth sense for weakness,' said Mr. Israel, a New York Democrat. 'Some can sense power. Joe Biden has a sixth sense for people who are struggling.'"
When Joe announced his candidacy on The View, he made mention of the tragedies he's suffered, including that of Beau. He has also brought Beau into his campaign speeches and event speeches of the past few weeks. "Beau cared a great deal about being here. You all know the loss of a loved one. Somehow, the pain fades, a little bit,” he said at a recent rally. And in Houston, he honored doctors who had treated Beau: "“You were wonderful, wonderful to my family,” he said, according to NBC.
Biden has also made curing cancer one of his campaign pledges, which undoubtedly is connected to the loss of his beloved son.