Ann Arbor — Former Vice President Joe Biden, in town Monday on a tour to discuss his memoir about the death of his beloved son and the grief that followed, both public and private, explained the title to the crowd that came to hear everybody’s “Uncle-in-Chief.”
What they didn’t hear was much about a potential run for the highest office in 2020.
Biden stuck to the book, which like Biden, is both personal and political. The origins began with his son, Beau Biden, he said, who died at age 46 on May 30, 2015, of brain cancer. “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose” is a quote from conversation he had with him a few months before he died.
“’Promise Me’ is about … when something happens, the instinct is to withdraw,” Biden told the gathering at the Michigan Theatre. “(Beau) said: ‘I’m going to be OK no matter what happens … but promise me, promise me, Dad, that you’re going to be OK.’”
“It’s about the promise he asked me to make, to not use his loss as a reason to turn in but as a reason to turn out, and I hope that he’s proud of me because that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The memoir chronicles the year that followed Beau Biden’s cancer diagnosis.
Beau Biden was a lawyer, former Delaware attorney general and a member of the Delaware National Guard, earning a Bronze Star while fighting in the Iraq War, the Associated Press reported.
The 47th vice president, elected with President Barack Obama in 2008, said the book and the tour have been cathartic.
The purpose, he said, wasn’t just to leave a legacy but to give hope to families suffering from cancer.
“I’ve never met a man I admire more than my son Beau,” said Biden. “I wanted to write this for him and to show ... you can find a way through a tragic loss if you find purpose. I wanted to lift millions of people up and hope the book gives people some hope who are going through what I went through.”
Talking politics, Biden said: “On every major issue today, we are more divided than ever. The political system is broken.”
He said he had planned on running for president before Beau was diagnosed with cancer in August 2014. “... We never gave up hope that science would out beat the disease,” he said.
If the crowd came for Biden’s brand of plain-speaking politics, some said they didn’t hear what they wanted to hear.
“He didn’t answer the question we were all waiting for, but I don’t think he is going to run because of the way he talked about how devoted he is to cancer research,” said Tiffany Lon, 20, of Novi.
Hayle Foster enjoyed the talk and the memories of Biden’s time at the White House.
“... But we wished he would have had more time and talked about running for president,” said Foster, 36, of Ann Arbor. “I’d vote for him and I think he knows he’d have a strong following.”
During the hour-long talk, Biden looked back on critical moments of his vice presidency and working with Obama, including when Osama Bin Laden was caught in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011. He said the next morning, 5,000 people stood outside his home, singing “God Bless America” to his wife as she sat on the porch.
Biden said he and Obama made a pact that Biden would always be the last guy in the room for every major decision. Their friendship, often played out before the cameras for eight years, is everlasting, he said.
How to buy the book
“Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose” is available at Barnes & Noble for $14, on iBook and audio book for $25.