WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - On his last day as vice president, Joe Biden briefly revived a tradition he had followed faithfully as a U.S. senator for Delaware: He rode the commuter train home from Washington.
Biden and his wife, Jill, hopped aboard an Amtrak train bound for Wilmington after attending the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington on Friday.
Marching band members and alumni from Biden's alma mater, the University of Delaware, joined scores of uniformed Delaware National Guard troops, schoolchildren and hundreds of other well-wishers to greet the Bidens at a celebration on Wilmington's riverfront, a stone's throw from the Amtrak station that bears his name.
“We never thought we left home,” a subdued Biden said as he began his speech, quickly becoming emotional.
“When I die, Delaware will be written on my heart,” he added, wiping away tears.
Delawareans, in turn, have embraced the man they know simply as “Joe,” who stayed long after Friday's ceremony to press the flesh, sign autographs and take dozens of selfies with enthusiastic supporters.
“It's amazing how the state has embraced my family,” he told the Associated Press in an interview afterward. “I was proud to be elected vice president, but nothing as proud as seven times, the people of Delaware voted for me for the Senate. ... They know me, warts and all.”
Senator for 36 years
Johanna Peet, 32, said people are obsessed with Biden and his family.
“I think it's because he's vulnerable as a man, and as a leader and as a politician,” she said, adding that the Bidens “make the effort to connect and make the effort to get to know you as an individual.”
After 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president, the 74-year-old Biden finds himself stepping away from the spotlight after almost half a century of public service, starting with his election to county council in 1970.
“I'm not going to go back to being a private citizen,” he told the AP. “I'm going to keep going full bore on all the things I cared about, ... both in foreign policy, domestic policy as well as the cancer moonshot.” Biden's eldest son, Beau, died of cancer in 2015.
Biden thanked the crowd for their support over the years, not just in politics, but in times of tragedy, including the death of his wife and infant daughter in a car crash just weeks after his election to the Senate.
“You've been with me in victory. You've been with me in defeat. You've all stayed with me,” he said.