Joe Biden Gets Choked Up While Speaking at John McCain's Funeral

Aug 31, 2018 at 3:10 p.m. ET
Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden gives a tribute during memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church for Sen. John McCain
Image: Matt York-Pool/Getty Images.

They may have operated on different sides of the aisle, but Joe Biden and the late John McCain had a deep respect for one another — and that was more apparent than ever at McCain’s private memorial on Thursday, where Biden broke down in tears while eulogizing his dear friend.

In his touching speech, Biden underscored that the men’s political affiliations did not define their friendship. He thought of McCain, whom he met in the ‘70s, as a brother.

“I always thought of John as a brother, with a hell of a lot of family fights,” Biden said. “Out of this grew a great friendship that transcended whatever political difference we had, or later developed, because, above all, we understood the same thing — all politics is personal. It’s all about trust. I trusted John with my life, and I think he would trust me with his.”

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Biden expounded on McCain's distinctive brand of politics, touching on the fact that his friend was never afraid to cross partisan lines if it meant defending what he knew to be right and good: "He could disagree on substance, but the underlying values that animated everything John did, everything he was, come to a different conclusion. He'd part company with you if you lacked the basic values of decency, respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself."

More: John McCain's Family & Friends Mourn His Passing

The men shared another strong connection through Biden’s son Beau, who died of brain cancer in May 2015. During that difficult period in his life, Biden leaned into his friendship with McCain. 

“There are times when life can be so cruel, pain is so blinding it’s hard to see anything else,” Biden said. “It’s brutal, it’s relentless, it’s unforgiving. It takes so much from those we love and from the families that love them, that in order to survive, we have to remember how they lived, not how they died.” 

And Biden, who was visibly overcome with emotion throughout the speech, emphasized just how well McCain had lived. 

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“John’s story is the American story. That’s not hyperbole. It’s the American story. Grounded in respect and decency, basic fairness. The intolerance of the abuse of power. John understood America was first and foremost an idea. Audacious and risky. Organized around ideals,” he said, adding, “He made average Americans proud.” 

McCain died last week at the age of 81, a year after he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. Every bit the true American hero his friend Biden made him out to be, the former Arizona senator will be laid to rest on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. 

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