January 13, 2016
Today, in a surprise ceremony, President Barack Obama awarded Vice President Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award of the United States. Mr. Biden gave a moving acceptance speech that was peppered with personal stories about friendship, support, family, and his children.
During his speech, Mr. Biden told the story of his eldest son, Beau Biden, at the time when he was battling brain cancer and was contemplating, as a matter of honor, to step down as Attorney General of Delaware, because, Vice President Biden explained:
He had aphasia and he was losing his ability to speak.
Mr. Biden proceeded to explain the family struggle with the decision, and the discussion he had with his son, Hunter Biden, about the concerns they shared:
He doesn’t have any other income. But we are alright, because Hunt is there and I can sell the house.
As the Vice President relayed this story to President Obama during a lunch meeting, President Obama told him to never sell the house and even offered financial help to make sure he could keep the house. While the National Aphasia Association is saddened to hear this heartbreaking personal story that Mr. Biden shared, we salute his decision to recount his son’s struggle with aphasia due to brain tumor, naming the disorder and defining it so precisely even in a few words. We also welcome his choice to share Beau Biden’s difficult decision related to stepping down from his position. Losing one’s job, which, for many, is an only source of income, is one of the most common struggles resulting from being diagnosed with aphasia that people with this condition face.
We thank Vice-President Biden for raising awareness about aphasia in this personal and heartfelt manner, at such a highly-visible event. We would like to encourage others, especially public figures, to share openly their experience with aphasia.
Let’s help the nearly 2 million people living with aphasia in the United States feel less isolated and more understood about the struggles they are going through each day.
Find out more about aphasia here.
Watch video of acceptance speech below. His mention of aphasia is just after the 6:40 mark.