As the son of a senator who has been in public service for 33 years, Beau Biden (Joseph R. Biden III) feels a call to action, not pressure by any means, but a calling.
“I’ve seen how a person can really have an impact on what’s going on around you,” he says. “You couldn’t leave my dinner table without the sense that you had an obligation … to try to impact your world.”
Asked to run against state Attorney General Jane Brady in the 2002 election, Beau says he respects the people who approached him, and he considered it. “I was thoroughly flattered,” he says. “But at the time, there were other things I had going on in my life.”
He’s been busy in the past year. In the spring of 2002 Beau left his job as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, where he prosecuted federal crimes since 1997, to join the law firm founded by his father. Monzack and Monaco in downtown Wilmington was originally called Biden and Walsh when it began in 1970, although Joe Biden left the firm only two years later to become U.S. Senator. Last November Beau married Hallie Olivere — an Archmere Academy guidance counselor — at an intimate wedding on Nantucket Island, Mass., the place where he proposed to her a year earlier, and where his family has celebrated Thanksgiving for the past 26 years.
Now focused on developing his law practice and building a family, Beau’s also likely to step into the political arena — although when and in what way he says he has not yet decided.
The person who probably knows him best is his younger brother Hunter, who calls Beau his hero and closest confidant. Hunter hints that Beau will join the political arena, and says, “I will run his campaign.”
While Hunter, 33, got the head start when it comes to raising children — he has been married to his wife Kathleen for 10 years and has three daughters — he wants Beau to be the one to run for political office first. He says he thinks about running himself, but “I think about it more for Beau, just because I have such great faith in him, not only as a brother but as a politician.”
Beau says, “I intend to be engaged and involved in the political process, and what form that takes, we’ll see.” He adopted from his father and grandfather Plato’s philosophy that the price good men pay for not being involved in politics is being governed by people who are not as good as they are. “You couldn’t be raised in my family and not want to be involved,” he says.
Biden family dinners, which often included Beau’s grandparents in addition to his dad and mom Jill, younger brother Hunter and sister Ashley, were an important part of daily life. “Our dinner table was a place where eating was almost incidental to the discussion, whether it be my mother’s teaching career or what was going on in our state or the nation or the world.”
For 31 of Beau’s 34 years, his father has been a senator, so he has had plenty of exposure to politics. Even when Beau and his brother Hunter were very young, they were allowed to be with their father while he worked, “as long as we spoke when we were spoken to,” he says. “And so I remember being in his office as a
5-, 6-, 7-year-old kid in meetings with other senators and leaders, both in government and industry.” Beau has also gone to parades and traveled with his father throughout the state since he was 4 years old.
As he’s gotten older, Beau has often filled in for his father at local fundraisers and dinner events. When the senator can’t make it back in time from Washington, D.C., his son is a more personable stand-in than a staff member.
Hallie, 30, remembers the first time she watched then-boyfriend Beau speak in public in place of the senator.
They had plans to go out with friends when Beau called and told her he was sorry, but they had to go to a dinner so he could say a few words for his father.
They attended a benefit for Saint Francis Hospital and when it was time for the speech Sen. Joe Biden was scheduled to give, Beau got up and talked about the many injuries he and his younger brother Hunter had over the years and how good the hospital had always been to his family.
“It was startling how personable he was,” Hallie says. “The real him came across.” She looked around at the audience and saw how intently everyone was listening. “As a girlfriend, I was so proud and impressed.”
Hunter, who is a year and a day younger than Beau, says, “I don’t know anybody you’d talk to who knows Beau intimately and doesn’t consider Beau one of the most impressive people they’ve met, as a person and a friend.”
Hallie says Beau’s energy is contagious. He’ll drop whatever he’s doing to help out a friend or family member. He runs out the door just as he’s about to sit down to dinner if his grandmother calls and needs him. If one of Hunter’s three daughters forgets her lunch, Beau happily drops it off at school.
Rob Buccini, a longtime friend of Beau and the real estate developer with the Buccini/Pollin Group working to revitalize downtown Wilmington, says he and Beau have gone from riding motor bikes and trick-or-treating together to visiting one another at college. Now both back in Wilmington and working only a few blocks apart, they speak once or twice a day. “There’s a comfort level,” Buccini says. “After a long week, he’s the perfect person to go out with on a Friday night if I am tired or drained.”
Hunter, who has a law practice in Washington, D.C., and who wears “vote Democratic” cuff links on the day of our interview, says he knew few children of politicians growing up. Now that he has lived in other cities and has had a chance to meet more people, he realizes that he and Beau are in the minority of people who want to go into the “family business.”
While Hunter says it is not in his immediate future to run for office, he is eager to help big brother Beau in whatever course of action he takes. “I think he’s completely sincere in that he hasn’t made any decision yet about when and what office,” Hunter says.
One thing’s for sure — there’s more to come from the Biden family. Delaware will have to wait and see.