V.P. gets hometown welcome
Joe Biden comes to pay a pre-holiday visit to his native Scranton.
Last Modified: April 16. 2013 3:29PM
SCRANTON – On an evening filled with fireworks, philharmonic and family, Vice President Joe Biden was right at home.
Speaking to an overflow crowd in the Electric City’s Courthouse Square, Biden didn’t talk about politics or policy. Instead, he chose to talk about Scranton, the Lackawanna County city where he spent his first 10 years in the Green Ridge section.
At his side were his son, Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, and his sister, Valerie Biden Owens. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a native son of Scranton who still resides here, also appeared with Biden.
But you wouldn’t know that Biden and Casey are running for re-election in November. Still four months away from the Nov. 6 general election, Pennsylvania, like it was in 2008, is becoming a focal point for the presidential race. President Barack Obama will be in western Pennsylvania Friday and Saturday, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate, will be in the state today.
But Tuesday night was about family, friends and remembering roots. The crowd was waiting to hear the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and then watch the spectacular fireworks display. Blankets and folding chairs were prime seats for this night.
“Hello, Scranton,” Biden said, wearing a blue shirt and khakis and flashing his electric smile. “Everything important in my life, I learned here in Scranton.”
Biden talked about values and he recalled stories of his youth told by his mother and aunts and uncles. He especially remembered his mother, Jean, who died in 2010 at the age of 93.
“My mother used to tell us you are defined by your courage and redeemed by your loyalty,” he said. “This soil runs thick with pride and loyalty.”
Biden said everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and he said everyone has an obligation to look out for their neighbors.
“The people of Scranton are remarkable,” he said. “All of you have had tough times. But you aren’t measured by the number of times you’ve been knocked down; you’re measured by how you got up.”
A voice in the crowd shouted, “We love you, Joe.”
Biden’s plane touched down at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport at 4:18 p.m. and he embarked on a winding trip to meet with supporters, labor leaders, friends and family. He drove through his old neighborhood and passed the Green Ridge Little League field, where he learned to play baseball. He spoke to the Green Ridge Little League All-Star team.
“I’m so old, I played the first game ever played on this field,” he said, although he admitted he spent the game on the bench and never got a chance to get in the game. “I didn’t actually play, but I was still here.”
The all-stars gave the vice president a baseball signed by members of the team. He said he would display it in his office.
Biden told the players he started out as a shortstop, but in high school became a centerfielder. Gary Knight, assistant coach of the Green Ridge all-stars, said the experience was unforgettable for the children.
“It means a lot to them to see the vice president at their home ball field, the same field that he played on as a child,” Knight said. “This is a moment they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
He and Casey stopped around 5:30 p.m. to visit with Casey’s mother, Ellen, former first lady of Pennsylvania. Biden called Mrs. Casey “one of the best ladies, period.”
Casey greeted Biden at the airport.
“You know the only reason why I left Scranton?” Biden joked. “I lived three blocks away from this guy’s father (former Gov. Robert P. Casey) and I knew only one of us was going to make it.”
On the eve of Independence Day, Biden took time to remember veterans of all wars.
“I look at that veterans memorial over there and I think of so many patriots who have given their lives for this country,” he said. “You all are the grit, sinew and soul of what freedom is all about.”
The vice president told the crowd that his son, Beau, served in Iraq.
Biden ended his 15-minute speech with a sincere message.
“I have spoke all over the world,” he said. “I’ve spoken to crowds that have been in the hundreds of thousands. But I want to tell you all here tonight that I am genuinely honored that you would allow me to be here with you tonight. Home is where your character is etched.”
Biden walked a rope line to greet supporters before heading back to the airport and his return flight to Washington, D.C.