Joe Biden is 75 — here’s how a kid from Scranton became a senator, VP, and now a possible 2020 presidential contender

Joe Biden has long straddled the line between presenting himself as an accomplished, career politician and a cool, down-to-earth dad.

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Joe Biden has long straddled the line between presenting himself as an accomplished, career politician and a cool, down-to-earth dad.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who turned 75 on Monday, said recently that he is “not closing the door” on running for the Democratic ticket in the 2020 presidential election.

He certainly has reason to be optimistic – throughout his eventful life and political career, Biden has overcome enormous obstacles to get to where he is today.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 20, 1942 to a used car salesman, Biden moved with his family to Mayfield, Delaware, when he was 13 years old. From the get-go, he faced many trials growing up, including bullies and an embarrassing stutter.

As he says his father taught him, “The measure of a man is not how often he is knocked down, but how quickly he gets up.”

Throughout his long political trajectory, Biden has lived by his father’s advice, and gotten back up after facing countless tragedies and challenges to achieve his political dreams.

Here’s how a kid from Scranton became a respected Senator, Vice President, and now possible 2020 presidential contender:


Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965, where he developed an interest in politics following President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. During his first two years, though, he was mainly interested in football and partying.

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Joe Biden’s picture in the University of Delaware yearbook from 1965
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Asylum

Source: Biography.com, Times


He met his first wife Neilia on a spring break trip in the Bahamas his junior year. The couple had three children: Joseph “Beau” Hunter III, Robert Hunter, and Naomi Christina Hunter.

Sources: Biography, CNN


Fresh out of University of Syracuse law school in 1968, Biden started working as a defense attorney in Wilmington, Delaware, and launched his own law firm in 1971. He first entered politics as a member of the New Castle County Council in 1970.

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Joe Biden with Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office.
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Wikimedia Commons

After encouragement from the Democratic Party, Biden ran for US Senate in 1972 and won, unseating Republican J. Caleb Boggs to become the fifth-youngest senator in history. He would continue serving as Delaware’s senator for over 30 years.

Sources: Biography, CNN


A month after the election, Biden’s wife Neilia and daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident while Christmas shopping on December 18, 1972. The crash also left his two sons Hunter and Beau seriously injured.

Sources: Biography, CNN


Despite his intense personal loss, Biden was sworn in as Senator in January of 1973 from a hospital in Wilmington where his sons were still recovering from the accident that killed their mother and sister.

Source: Biography


Following the crash, Biden said he became seriously suicidal: “I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry.” Just like his father had taught him, Biden got back up after his family tragedy.

Sources: Biography, Time


Biden got his hands dirty as a young Senator — working on consumer protection, international arms control, and crime in the 1970s. He met his current wife, Jill, on a blind date his brother arranged in 1975. The two married in 1977, and their daughter, Ashley Blazer, was born in 1981.

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Jill and Joe Biden meet with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in April 1980.
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Wikimedia Commons

Biden won reelection yet again in 1982, and in 1984, became one of the main managers in the Senate for the passage of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, a sweeping crime bill that, although controversial, represented one of his most important legislative accomplishments up to that point.

Sources: Biography, US Congress, Chicago Tribune


Having gained foreign policy experience in the late 1970s, Biden clashed with the Reagan administration over the SALT treaties to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, and over sanctions against apartheid in South Africa.

Sources: Biography, CNN


In 1987, Biden became the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a role he held until 1995. It was largely due to his tough questioning that Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork was not confirmed.


In 1987, Biden entered the 1988 presidential race — his first, but not his last, run for Commander in Chief. But he had to drop out of the primaries because of reports he had plagiarized part of a speech.

Sources: Biography, CNN


Shortly afterward, Biden had to overcome another potential tragedy. His doctors found two possibly deadly aneurysms in his brain. In 1988, he underwent two different life-saving surgeries. Seven months later, Biden was back in Congress.

Sources: Biography, CNN


In January 1990, Biden introduced another landmark bill — the Violence Against Women Act, which reformed penalties for sexual assault and domestic abuse. The bill eventually passed, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1994.

Source: CNN


Under former President George W. Bush, Biden became the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and utilized his past foreign policy experience as committee chairman from 2001-03, and again from 2007 to 2009. In 2002, Biden voted to authorize the War in Iraq, but later criticized the war and especially the 2007 troop surge.

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Biden (L) meeting with Afghanistan’s Minister for Womens Affairs Sima Samar (R) during his visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, in January 2002.
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Paula Bronstein/Stringer via Getty Images

Sources: Biography, CNN, Atlantic


In 2007, Biden decided to run for president again — and while his run this time was scandal-free, he dropped out of the primaries after falling behind then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Source: CNN


But he got on the ticket after Obama clinched the Democratic Party nomination in mid-2008, and chose Biden as his running mate.

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Biden kisses his mother at his home in Greenville, Delaware on August 23, 2008 after being chosen for the Obama presidential ticket as his wife and family look on.
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Jeff Fusco/Stringer via Getty Images

Source: CNN


In November 2008, Obama won a landslide election to become the country’s first black president, with Biden joining him as vice president. The pair defeated Sen. John McCain and his running mate, former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.

Source: CNN


During his tenure as vice president, Biden worked largely behind the scenes, and while he was known to be somewhat gaffe-prone, he spearheaded important legislative efforts around gun control, fiscal policy, and foreign policy.


Obama again chose Biden as his running mate in 2012, and the two were overwhelmingly reelected. That May, Biden famously made comments that insiders say fast-tracked the Obama administration’s declaration of support for same-sex marriage.

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Biden became the first member of the Obama administration to openly endorse same-sex marriage on an appearance on “Meet the Press” in May 2012.
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Screenshot via YouTube/orangecountyfldems

Sources: Biography, CNN, Atlantic, POLITICO


During Obama’s presidency, he and Biden developed a close friendship — even at one point jokingly making friendship bracelets for each other.

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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden get goofy in a “Let’s Move!” video taping on the Colonnade of the White House, Feb. 21, 2014.
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White House/Pete Souza

Source: Business Insider


Toward the end of his second term as VP, tragedy struck Biden yet again. His son Beau, who had been battling brain cancer, died at age 46 on May 30, 2015. “Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known,” the heartbroken father wrote.

Sources: Biography, CNN, Business Insider


Although he was encouraged to run for president for a third time in 2016, Biden declined to do so. Beau’s death played a prominent role in his decision.

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Joe Biden hugs his son Beau in 2015.
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The White House

Source: Biography


Many, including Biden himself, believed he would have fared better than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did, and beaten Trump had he run.


In one of his last acts as president, Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2017. During his speech, Obama celebrated not just Biden’s achievements, but also his own personal “bromance” with his vice president.


Biden is now eyeing another potential presidential run, but remains on the fence. Even if he doesn’t step up to run in 2020, Biden’s down-to-earth demeanor and passion for sensible policy will likely leave many fondly remembering his nearly 50 years of public service.

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Biden at a baseball game in 2014
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Hunter Martin/Getty

Source: Huffington Post