Joe Biden is the 46th and current president of the United States, serving since January 20, 2021. He is also the oldest president in American history, having turned 81 in November 2023. Before becoming president, he was the 47th vice president under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 and a United States senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009.
Early life and career
Biden was born on November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Joseph and Catherine Biden. He was the eldest of four siblings and grew up in a working-class Catholic family. He moved with his family to Delaware when he was 10 years old and attended a series of Catholic schools, including the prestigious Archmere Academy. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 with a double major in history and political science and earned a law degree from Syracuse University in 1968.
Biden married Neilia Hunter in 1966 and had three children with her: Beau, Hunter, and Naomi. He started his career as a lawyer in Wilmington, Delaware, and was elected to the New Castle County Council in 1970. In 1972, he ran for the U.S. Senate and defeated the incumbent Republican J. Caleb Boggs in a close race. However, tragedy struck in December of that year, when his wife and daughter were killed and his sons were injured in a car accident. Biden was sworn in as a senator at the hospital where his sons were recovering.
Biden served in the Senate for 36 years, becoming one of the most influential and respected members of the chamber. He was known for his expertise in foreign policy, judiciary, and crime issues, as well as his ability to work across party lines. He chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995 and from 2007 to 2009, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2001 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2009. He played a key role in shaping U.S. policies on arms control, NATO, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Russia, and many other global issues.
Biden also ran for president twice, in 1988 and 2008, but failed to win the Democratic nomination. He faced controversies and criticisms for his plagiarism, gaffes, and positions on busing, crime, and abortion. He remarried in 1977 to Jill Jacobs, an educator, and had a daughter, Ashley, with her. He also survived two brain aneurysms in 1988 and a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2017.
Biden was chosen by Barack Obama as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election, and they won a historic victory over John McCain and Sarah Palin. As vice president, Biden was a close adviser and partner to Obama, taking on important assignments on domestic and foreign affairs. He helped pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided stimulus funds to combat the Great Recession. He also led the negotiations with Congress on the Budget Control Act of 2011, which raised the debt ceiling and reduced the deficit. He was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans. He also advocated for gun control, LGBTQ rights, and cancer research.
On the international front, Biden supported the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the surge of forces in Afghanistan. He also played a pivotal role in the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, which limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. He also supported the Paris climate agreement of 2015, which committed the U.S. and other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He also fostered strong relationships with allies and partners around the world, especially in Europe and Asia.
Biden and Obama were reelected in 2012, defeating Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. In 2015, Biden faced another personal tragedy, when his son Beau died of brain cancer at the age of 46. Biden decided not to run for president in 2016, citing his grief and the late timing of his decision. He endorsed Hillary Clinton, who lost to Donald Trump in a stunning upset.
Biden announced his candidacy for president in 2019, joining a crowded field of Democratic contenders. He ran on a platform of restoring the soul of America, rebuilding the middle class, and uniting the country. He faced fierce competition from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and others, but he emerged as the frontrunner after winning the South Carolina primary and sweeping the Super Tuesday contests. He secured the nomination after Sanders dropped out in April 2020.
Biden chose Kamala Harris, a senator from California and a former rival, as his running mate, making her the first woman and person of color to be nominated for vice president by a major party. He faced Trump in the general election, which was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, racial unrest, and economic turmoil. Biden campaigned on a contrast with Trump’s leadership, promising to follow the science, restore public trust, and heal the nation. He also proposed a bold agenda to combat the pandemic, revive the economy, address climate change, expand health care, reform immigration, and restore America’s global leadership.
Biden won the election with 306 electoral votes and more than 81 million popular votes, the most in U.S. history. However, Trump refused to concede and made claims of voter fraud, challenging the results in several states and inciting his supporters to protest. On January 6, 2021, mob of Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the certification of Biden’s victory and resulting in five deaths. Biden condemned the attack as an insurrection and called for unity and accountability.
Biden was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2021, in a scaled-down ceremony due to the pandemic and security threats. He delivered a speech calling for an end to the uncivil war and appealing to the better angels of the American people. He also signed a series of executive orders to reverse some of Trump’s policies and to address the urgent challenges facing the nation.
Achievements and challenges
In his first year in office, Biden has achieved some notable successes, as well as faced some daunting challenges. He has overseen the distribution of more than 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, boosting the vaccination rate from 39% to 70% of the adult population. He has also signed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that provided direct payments, unemployment benefits, tax credits, and aid to state and local governments, among other measures. He has also enacted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill that will fund improvements to roads, bridges, transit, broadband, water, and energy systems. He has also advanced his Build Back Better agenda, a $3.5 trillion package that aims to expand social programs, lower costs, and combat climate change, though it faces opposition from some moderate Democrats and all Republicans.
On the foreign policy front, Biden has reengaged with allies and partners, rejoining the Paris climate agreement, the World Health Organization, and the Iran nuclear deal. He has also confronted adversaries such as China, Russia, and North Korea, imposing sanctions, supporting democracy, and defending human rights. He has also ended the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, fulfilling a campaign promise but also facing criticism for the chaotic and deadly evacuation of Americans and allies.
However, Biden has also faced significant challenges and setbacks, both at home and abroad. He has struggled to contain the spread of the delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus, which have fueled a surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. He has also faced rising inflation, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and consumer dissatisfaction, which have eroded his public approval ratings. He has also faced fierce resistance from Republicans, who have blocked his voting rights and police reform bills, challenged his vaccine and testing mandates, and promoted the false narrative of a stolen election. He has also faced divisions within his own party, as progressives and moderates clash over the size and scope of his spending plans.
Biden has also faced some foreign policy crises and controversies, such as the coup in Myanmar, the assassination of Haiti’s president, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the cyberattacks by Russian hackers, the human rights abuses by China, and the nuclear provocations by North Korea. He has also faced criticism for his handling of the U.S. relationship with France, which was angered by a submarine deal with Australia and the UK, and with Ukraine, which is threatened by a Russian invasion.
Outlook and legacy
He has also announced his intention to run for reelection in 2024, despite his age and health concerns.
Biden’s legacy will depend on how he navigates the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, as well as how he is perceived by the American people and the world. He has already made history as the oldest president, the first to defeat an incumbent since 1992, and the first to serve with a woman of color as vice president.