(WASHINGTON) -- An array of non-profits, corporate CEO’s, diplomats, military, and faith leaders honored Vice President Joe Biden Thursday for his contributions to international diplomacy. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and the vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, took the stage at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition dinner to hand off the award.
The younger Biden is the chairman of the United Nations World Food Program’s US chapter while McCain served with the vice president on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “He's always been a fighter for the progress of American values in the world, a leader in so many good causes, from combating violence against women to helping to save millions of lives threatened by HIV/AIDS,” McCain said of the former senator from Delaware, “And there isn't time to name them all.” “It is no exaggeration to say Vice President Biden has played a pivotal role for decades in shaping U.S. foreign policy and funding it, and he deserves a share of the credit for the advances our interests and values has made in the world that is, for all its troubles and threats, remarkably more hospitable to our ideals than it was when he and I first got to know each other,” he said.
McCain added that while he had occasionally disagreed with Biden, whose ticket he faced off against during the 2008 presidential election, they always agreed on diplomacy’s need abroad. The senator also chastised members of his own party that he said reflected an “isolationist” stance, a view he’s been critical of in the past.
Biden, in turn, reflected on four decades of his relationship with McCain. “John and I have been close personal friends since, quite frankly, six months after he was released from a prisoner of war camp and he ended up coming up as a Navy liaison to the United States Senate,” Biden said, adding the two had traveled “hundreds of thousands of miles together." The remainder of his roughly hour-long remarks ran the gamut of diplomatic issues, from the Obama administration’s increased focus on Asia to the recent clashes in Ukraine between its government and demonstrators seeking western-style reform.
“I think that we're at an inflection point in world history,” he said. "There are certain times, not just in American history but world history, where things change not just because of any particular individual. Not because Barack Obama is president or Putin is president or President Xi or whatever the cast of characters are, but because the world is in the process of changing.” The vice president invoked the poet W.B. Yates’ writings after the 1916 Irish uprising: “All's changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty has been born,” Biden recalled, adding, “I've been hanging around a long time in this business, but just in the last 15 years all's changed.” Thanking the leaders in the audience for their work abroad, Biden pledged the White House would continue to support international aid efforts. Citing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, worldwide efforts against terrorism, and a resurgent China and Russia, he likened the current climate to the reconstruction of Europe and Japan after World War II. Representatives Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., were also recognized at the event.
The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition is a conglomeration of organizations and individuals who advocate for an increase in the US foreign aid budget and international assistance. Its membership includes a wide variety of organizations, reflected in the organization’s co-chairs: Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn A. Hewson, and H. Melvin Ming, President of Sesame Workshop -- the latter bringing one of Sesame Street’s famous residents with him to the dinner. Thursday night’s event may be the only occasion where one can see the Muppet Grover sharing a stage with the leader of one of the world’s largest defense contractors. Grover, in a skit before the awards ceremony, spotted McCain and Biden in the audience. “Sitting together?” the furry blue monster asked, “Awkward.”
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