“People in my generation have to recognize the unusual circumstances in which we got here and the extraordinary leader who was elected,” he said.
Vice President Joe Biden began his State of the Union response with personal stories of his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and his sons, Hunter and Beau, killed in motorcycle crashes in two years, two family members he said he was doing the speech for. “This is a heavy moment,” he said. “I’m doing this because I want all you to remember the magnanimity and the nobility of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.” The President called Mr. Biden earlier in the day to ask him to open the speech, a senior official said. He had been planning to do so earlier Tuesday, but the administration decided he should do it first, the official said. Mr. Biden was initially hesitant, fearing he had to stay to see his two daughters off to college next week. But the president assured him that he would see them in time. He did not write a speech himself — the one prepared by a staffer, he said later. He began the speech for the fifth time by reading the opening statement from a letter written by his late son, Beau, who had asked him to do so. “I can’t have a mom or a dad at my State of the Union address.” it said. “No one will replace Beau. But I can become you, and every day I try to be the best version of you.” In his remarks, Mr. Biden also paid tribute to James P. Nicholson, the elderly vice president who like his brother Martin had had a long career in public service. He also quoted President Kennedy’s famous inaugural line “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” “That’s the spirit we live by,” he said. He also gave one other tribute to the Kennedy family. “I want to wish my good friend Joe Biden the best of luck with his book,” he said. The book, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose with My Dad,” is slated for release in March.