Joe Biden

Remarks by the Vice President at a Saint Patrick's Day Reception

March 17, 2009

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Michelle Obama, my wife Jill, and to the Prime Minister and his wife Mary -- all of you, welcome to the White House. It's an honor to be here with -- with two great leaders and to welcome the Taoiseach to celebrate the friendship between our -- our two great nations -- two nations that, quite frankly, as McGilver (ph) here knows, define me the most, the Irish part, as well.

There's an old Irish proverb -- and you heard a million of them. And you know we Irish make them up when there's really not one -- (laughter) -- says, "There's no strength without unity." Today -- today we celebrate the strength derived from the unity of Irish and American people that we've shared for centuries -- actually, since the very beginning.

We all know the importance of St. Paddy's Day in Irish history, but today is a pretty significant day in American history, as well, Bob Gilligan. It was on March the 17th, 1776, that British forces, under the leadership of Sir William Howe, evacuated Boston during the Revolutionary War -- (applause) -- something we Irish and Americans share in common, and -- paving the way for the future victory of the Revolutionary War.

Now, what some of you may know and many of you may not know, the password of the day at General Washington's encampment was "St. Patrick." Literally, it was "St. Patrick." St. Patrick's Day has been entwined in American history literally from our beginning, from our birth. So when Americans, all done up in Kelly green and they're engaging in revelry tonight, it's likely the result of their keen desire to know a great deal more about the American Revolution -- or maybe not. (Laughter.) Maybe not.

For me, of course, St. Patrick's Day and the Irishness it celebrates is inextricably tied to my character and to my personal history. My mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, who I went to see last night late in the hospital, did better today and said, "Joey, why are you here? Aren't you supposed to be at the White House?" And literally, as I left her bedside, Mr. President, she said, "Joey, where is your green?" (Laughter.)

Now, they got me up at 2:30 a.m. in the morning to go see her, and she wondered why I didn't have my green on. Well, Mom, I got my green on tonight.

You know, the fact of the matter is, I think my mother, like all of our mothers, is the soul, spirit and essence of what it means to be an Irish American. She's spiritual, she's romantic, she honors tradition and understands that the thickest of all substances is blood, and the greatest of all virtues is courage.

She taught me and everyone who came through our door to believe that bravery lives in every one of our hearts, and we should expect it to be summoned someday.

She taught us that failure at some point is inevitable in everyone's life, but giving up is absolutely unforgivable.

It's funny, I think she might have been tutoring Barack Obama on the side during this period -- (laughter) -- because he shares precisely that same ethic. It's an ethic that isn't unique to us Irish, although he has Irish blood, but it's one we fully embrace as a people.

It's an ethic of toughness and compassion, intellect and humor, deep honor and a deeper commitment to those around us. And that's the definition of my working with President Barack Obama. That's who he is. Come to think of it, maybe he should put, as was said today, an asterisk after the "O" in his name. (Laughter.) We were kidding inside, I would occasionally -- and even once Michelle introduced Jill as Jill O'Biden. (Laughter.)

Seriously, though, there's another old Irish proverb, and you know this one: "A friend's eye is a good mirror." A friend's eye is a good mirror. And I hope this one is true, because when I look in the President's eye, I sure like what I see reflecting back.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's my honor to introduce the President of the United States of America, my friend Barack Obama. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President at a Saint Patrick's Day Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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