Joe Biden
Joe Biden has long straddled the line between presenting himself as an accomplished, career politician and a cool, down-to-earth dad.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

  • President-elect Joe Biden turns 78 years old on Friday, November 20. 
  • Biden, who served as US senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009 and then former President Obama's vice-president from 2009 to 2017, ran for president three times before winning the Democratic nomination.
  • Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on November 20, 1942, to a used car salesman, Biden moved with his family to Mayfield, Delaware, when he was 13 years old and has lived there ever since. 
  • Now, Biden is preparing to take on the biggest challenge of his political career by serving as president.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden is turning 78 years old on Friday, November 20, making him the oldest person to take office as US president in history. 

After two unsuccessful runs for president in 1988 and 2008, a hard-fought 2020 Democratic primary with over a dozen opponents, and running a general election campaign during a pandemic, Biden achieved his decades-long goal of winning the presidency. 

Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris are now preparing to take over the White House as the United States enters one of the most challenging times in recent history with cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, skyrocket nationwide and many Americans descend into further economic distress. 

Biden has long used his resiliency against adversity and his own personal struggles with grief and loss to connect with and reassure voters.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on November 20, 1942, Biden moved with his family to Mayfield, Delaware, when he was 13 years old. From the get-go, he faced many trials growing up, including bullies and an embarrassing stutter.

As he says his father, a used car salesman, taught him, "The measure of a man is not how often he is knocked down, but how quickly he gets up."

Throughout his long political career, Biden has overcome numerous family tragedies and challenges to achieve his political dreams.

Here's how a kid from Scranton became a six-term senator, vice president, and now the 46th President-elect.

Joe Perticone, Michal Kranz, and Natalie Colorassi contributed to an earlier version of this article.

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965, where he developed an interest in politics following President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. During his first two years, though, he was mainly interested in football and partying.
young Joe Biden
Joe Biden's picture in the University of Delaware yearbook from 1965

Asylum

Source: Biography.com, Times

He met his first wife Neilia on a spring break trip in the Bahamas his junior year. The couple had three children: Joseph "Beau" Hunter III, Robert Hunter, and Naomi Christina Hunter.
biden 1972 family
Biden (R) with his wife Neilia (center) and their two sons, Hunter and Beau.

AP

Sources: Biography, CNN

Fresh out of University of Syracuse law school in 1968, Biden started working as a defense attorney in Wilmington, Delaware, and launched his own law firm in 1971. He first entered politics as a member of the New Castle County Council in 1970.
Joe Biden Jimmy Carter
Joe Biden with Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office.

Wikimedia Commons

After encouragement from the Democratic Party, Biden ran for US Senate in 1972 and won, unseating Republican J. Caleb Boggs to become the fifth-youngest senator in history. He would continue serving as Delaware's senator for over 30 years.
biden 1972
Biden upon his election in 1972.

AP

Sources: BiographyCNN

A month after the election, Biden's wife Neilia and daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident while Christmas shopping on December 18, 1972. The crash also left his two sons Hunter and Beau seriously injured.
biden and wife 1972
Biden (L) while his wife Neilia (center) spoke on election night, 1972, while holding their daughter Naomi (R). Neilia and Naomi were killed a month later in a car crash.

Wilmington News-Journal/AP

Sources: BiographyCNN

Despite his intense personal loss, Biden was sworn in as Senator in January of 1973 from a hospital in Wilmington where his sons were still recovering from the accident that killed their mother and sister.
biden 1973
Biden (L) with his injured son Beau (bottom center) in a Wilmington hospital. Beau has his leg in a crutch.

Brian Horton/AP

Source: Biography

Following the crash, Biden said he became seriously suicidal: "I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry." Just like his father had taught him, Biden got back up after his family tragedy.
biden carter 1978
Biden (R) with former President Jimmy Carter (L) in 1978. Biden was the first senator to endorse Carter's presidential campaign in 1976.

Anonymous/AP

Sources: BiographyTime

Biden got his hands dirty as a young Senator — working on consumer protection, international arms control, and crime in the 1970s. He met his current wife, Jill, on a blind date his brother arranged in 1975. The two married in 1977, and their daughter, Ashley Blazer, was born in 1981.
Pope_John_Paul_II_with_Joe_and_Jill_Biden
Jill and Joe Biden meet with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in April 1980.

Wikimedia Commons

Biden won reelection yet again in 1982, and in 1984, became one of the main managers in the Senate for the passage of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, a sweeping crime bill that, although controversial, represented one of his most important legislative accomplishments up to that point.
Biden 1985
Biden (R) with members of his family during a swearing-in ceremony in 1985. Vice President and future US President George Bush, Sr., presides over the ceremony (center back).

Lana Harris/AP

Sources: Biography, US Congress, Chicago Tribune

Having gained foreign policy experience in the late 1970s, Biden clashed with the Reagan administration over the SALT treaties to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, and over sanctions against apartheid in South Africa.
Biden judiciary committee
Biden during the Robert Bork hearings in September, 1987.

John Duricka/AP

Sources: BiographyCNN

In 1987, Biden became the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a role he held until 1995. It was largely due to his tough questioning that Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork was not confirmed.
robert bork
In this 1987 photo, Judge Robert Bork, nominated by President Reagan to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court, is sworn before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill at his confirmation hearing.

AP/John Duricka

In 1987, Biden entered the 1988 presidential race — his first, but not his last, run for Commander in Chief. But he had to drop out of the primaries because of reports he had plagiarized part of a speech.
biden lobster 1987
Biden is presented with a giant New England lobster at a March 1987 Democratic Party meeting at a restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Mark Lennihan/AP

Sources: BiographyCNN

Shortly afterward, Biden had to overcome another potential tragedy. His doctors found two possibly deadly aneurysms in his brain. In 1988, he underwent two different life-saving surgeries. Seven months later, Biden was back in Congress.
biden 1988
Biden (L) with his son Beau (R) after being released from the hospital after his first brain surgery in 1988. The older Biden is sporting a cap from his alma mater, the University of Delaware.

Adele Starr/AP

Sources: BiographyCNN

In January 1990, Biden introduced another landmark bill — the Violence Against Women Act, which reformed penalties for sexual assault and domestic abuse. The bill eventually passed, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1994.
biden 1990
Biden (L) with Sen. Ted Kennedy (R) at a senate hearing in 1990.

John Duricka/AP

Source: CNN

Under former President George W. Bush, Biden became the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and utilized his past foreign policy experience as committee chairman from 2001-03, and again from 2007 to 2009. In 2002, Biden voted to authorize the War in Iraq, but later criticized the war and especially the 2007 troop surge.
biden afghanistan
Biden (L) meeting with Afghanistan's Minister for Womens Affairs Sima Samar (R) during his visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, in January 2002.

Paula Bronstein/Stringer via Getty Images

Sources: BiographyCNN, Atlantic

In 2007, Biden decided to run for president again — and while his run this time was scandal-free, he dropped out of the primaries after falling behind then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Biden candidacy 2007
Biden beams after signing his declaration of candidacy papers in Concord, New Hampshire in 2007.

Jim Cole/AP

Source: CNN

But he got on the ticket after Obama clinched the Democratic Party nomination in mid-2008, and chose Biden as his running mate.
Biden 2008 running mate
Biden kisses his mother at his home in Greenville, Delaware on August 23, 2008 after being chosen for the Obama presidential ticket as his wife and family look on.

Jeff Fusco/Stringer via Getty Images

Source: CNN

In November 2008, Obama won a landslide election to become the country's first black president, with Biden joining him as vice president. The pair defeated Sen. John McCain and his running mate, former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.
Biden obama 2008 devil horns
Biden (L) with President-elect Obama (R) in 2008.

Jae C. Hong/AP

Source: CNN

During his tenure as vice president, Biden worked largely behind the scenes, and while he was known to be somewhat gaffe-prone, he spearheaded important legislative efforts around gun control, fiscal policy, and foreign policy.
AP467398899065
Biden loves ice cream. And aviators.

AP/Don Ryan

Obama again chose Biden as his running mate in 2012, and the two were overwhelmingly reelected. That May, Biden famously made comments that insiders say fast-tracked the Obama administration's declaration of support for same-sex marriage.
biden same sex marriage 2012
Biden became the first member of the Obama administration to openly endorse same-sex marriage on an appearance on "Meet the Press" in May 2012.

Screenshot via YouTube/orangecountyfldems

Sources: BiographyCNNAtlantic, POLITICO

During Obama's presidency, he and Biden developed a close friendship — even at one point jokingly making friendship bracelets for each other.
obama biden
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden get goofy in a "Let's Move!" video taping on the Colonnade of the White House, Feb. 21, 2014.

White House/Pete Souza

Source: Business Insider

Toward the end of his second term as VP, tragedy struck Biden yet again. His son Beau, who had been battling brain cancer, died at age 46 on May 30, 2015. "Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known," the heartbroken father wrote.
biden beau funeral
Biden mourns his late son Beau during a church service during his funeral in June, 2015.

Pool/New York Times via AP

Sources: BiographyCNN, Business Insider

Although he was encouraged to run for president for a third time in 2016, Biden declined to do so. Beau's death played a prominent role in his decision.
beau biden
Joe Biden hugs his son Beau in 2015.

The White House

Source: Biography

Many, including Biden himself, believed he would have fared better than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did, and beaten Trump had he run.
joe biden hillary clinton
Biden campaigns for Clinton in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

AP Photo/Mel Evans

In one of his last acts as president, Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2017. During his speech, Obama celebrated not just Biden's achievements, but also his own personal "bromance" with his vice president.
Joe Biden cry
Vice President Joe Biden with tears in his eyes as President Obama awards him a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

AP

Biden's down-to-earth demeanor and passion for sensible policy will likely leave many fondly remembering his nearly 50 years of public service. But he is also contending with significant criticisms for support of controversial legislation over several decades.
biden smile
Biden at a baseball game in 2014

Hunter Martin/Getty

Source: Huffington Post

Biden had to address accusations he inappropriately touched several women and made them feel uncomfortable.
Former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Fire Fighters conference in Washington, DC on March 12, 2019 as his wife Jill Biden looks on. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Joe Biden.

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

Biden launched his 2020 campaign in April, marking the third White House bid of his career.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 18: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Democratic presidential candidate, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his wide Jill Biden wave during a campaign kickoff rally on May 18, 2019 on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since Biden announced his candidacy in late April, he has taken the top spot in all polls of the sprawling Democratic primary field. Biden's rally on Saturday was his first large-scale campaign rally after doing smaller events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the past few weeks. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Source: The Associated Press

Biden has made establishing himself as the antidote to President Donald Trump a cornerstone of his campaign.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 18: Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns for president at a kickoff rally on March 18, 2019 in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Joe Biden.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Biden stirred controversy in mid-June when he fondly recalled his time in Congress working with two segregationist senators. He was pummeled for the remarks by Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, the only two black Democratic presidential candidates. Booker said: "I know Joe Biden. He's better than this. And this is a moment where he should have spoken to the issue, allowed everybody to learn from it and move on." After initially refusing to apologize, Biden did so two weeks later.
joe biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden.

Associated Press/Alex Brandon

Sources: The New York Times, Business Insider

Biden sparred with Harris over his civil rights record at the June Democratic primary debate. She sharply criticized Biden's "very hurtful comments" about working with segregationist senators and brought attention to his past opposition to busing. He fired back, calling it "a mischaracterization."
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

Biden's moderate platform has made him vulnerable to attack from the progressive wing of the party, particularly from Sen. Bernie Sanders on healthcare. Biden rolled out his own plan in July, which would shore up the Affordable Care Act by injecting massive new subsidies into its exchanges and expand it with a government-run public insurance option.
Joe Biden in New Hampshire
Joe Biden speaks to potential voters on the Dartmouth College campus in Hanover, NH

Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Sources: Politico, Business Insider

At the July Democratic primary debate, Biden came under fire from Booker over his 1994 criminal justice bill, which increased the incarceration rates of black Americans.
Cory Booker and Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopeful Former Vice President Joe Biden, at right, looks on as Sen. Cory Booker speaks during the second round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 31, 2019

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

An Insider poll began collecting data on Biden's ability to defeat Donald Trump in August. From August to February, an average of 64% of voters polled believed Joe Biden was the strongest candidate to defeat Trump.
Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider

But as early voting progressed, Biden faced the surging threat of Bernie Sanders, after the Senator took home victories in all three early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
joe biden
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Henderson, Nev.

Associated Press/John Locher

Source: Business Insider

In early February, just over half of Democratic voters polled said they thought Biden could beat Trump in the general election, reflecting a 14-point hit as Sanders gained traction.
Joe Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden

AP Photo/Paul Vernon

Source: Business Insider

But Super Tuesday brought the former vice president back toward the lead. Biden took home victories in 10 of the 14 states — including delegate-rich Texas — giving him the most delegates out of any candidate in the race so far.
Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden's Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles.

Mike Blake/Reuters

Source: Business Insider

The Super Tuesday results showed that Biden dominated among southern and older Black voters.
Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks at University of South Carolina in Columbia after winning the South Carolina Primary on February 29, 2020.

Jeremy Hogan / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

As he went head-to-head with Sanders, Biden saw a surge in political endorsements. Former presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg have dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden's campaign.
Joe Biden Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg endorses former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at Chicken Scratch in Dallas, Texas, on March 2, 2020.

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Sources: Business Insider, Business Insider

Insider polling suggested that Biden was considered one of the most centrist candidates in the race, and the most experienced candidate running for president.
joe biden
Democratic presidential hopeful Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the fifth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia on November 20, 2019.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Biden unofficially clinched the nomination when Sanders dropped out of the race on April 8. He then entered a general election campaign fundamentally altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane O’Meara Sanders walk out to rally with supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 2, 2020.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

For most of 2020, Biden only conducted virtual campaign events and media appearances from his Delaware home, occasionally venturing out for socially distanced speeches or campaign stops.
GettyImages-joe-biden-mask
Former Vice President Joe Biden puts on a mask after a campaign event on July 28, 2020.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The 2020 presidential campaign was shaped by the pandemic, the resulting economic turmoil, and widespread protests over police brutality and systemic racism after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.
George Floyd protests
Protests over the police killing of George Floyd rage on more than three months later.

Adam Miller/Business Insider

In August, Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. Harris made history as the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman to serve on a major party ticket.
Kamala Harris
Former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris take the stage before the start of the second night of the second 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, July 31, 2019.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Biden formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president on August 20. The Democratic convention was set to be hosted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but went almost entirely virtual due to the pandemic. Biden and Harris gave their acceptance speeches from Delaware.
Biden Harris DNC
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., watch fireworks during the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.

Andrew Harnik/AP

After a hard-fought campaign, Biden defeated Trump for the presidency, winning the Electoral College with 306 votes compared to 232 votes for Trump.
trump biden

Evan Vucci/AP, NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Biden won back the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin while Trump won Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina.
Biden Pennsylvania
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Scranton, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Source: Business Insider

Even as Trump refuses to concede the election and his allies cast doubt on the results, Biden is forging ahead with meeting with transition advisers and announcing senior staff hires.
GettyImages-joe-biden
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech on July 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

Source: Biden-Harris Transition

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