In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past forty years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life. The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought, and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden’s eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. “Promise me, Dad,” Beau had told his father. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe Biden gave him his word.
Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad—Joe, I need your help—he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.
This is a book written not just by the vice president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.
Author: Joe Biden
“So I try to be mindful, at all times, of what a difference a small human gesture can make to people in need. What does it really cost to take a moment to look someone in the eye, to give him a hug, to let her know, I get it. You’re not alone?”
If you’re looking to be inspired, learn something, and maybe also kind of sob like a baby, please read this book (or listen to Joe read it himself as an audiobook, like I did). I loved Joe Biden before this book, but now that gut feeling has been affirmed.
In this book, Joe recounts the years leading up to his decision not to run in the 2016 presidential election, although it was a very, very close call. Almost nobody knew how much his family struggled during that time, as one of his sons battled a vicious type of cancer. He warred within his own mind and heart, trying to choose between running—as his family, including his sick son, wanted him to—and not, because he was so overwhelmed by grief and stress.
Before this book, I never knew that Joe had such a sad past. The tenderness and raw emotion he uses throughout are proportional to his experiences, and they are heartbreaking. But he is also strong, and good, and hopeful. He loves his family more than anything in the world. He admires his children with every ounce of his being. He cares deeply about the people both around him and all over the country—the world. I hope he gives himself another chance.