DENVER—Joseph Biden is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, widely respected for his knowledge of international affairs.
He is former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, familiar with the most contentious social and legal issues facing the country.
He has spent 35 years in Washington, developing rare expertise in the folkways of the capital.
But Wednesday night, he billed himself as scrappy Joey Biden, a hard-working kid from Middle America who has experienced adversity and tragedy, and managed to rise above both.
"My dad, who fell on hard economic times, always told me, 'Champ, when you get knocked down, get up,' " Biden said. "Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable."
Biden, 65, was an also-ran in the presidential race this year, but he never alienated any of his rivals and remained on good terms with Barack Obama, who chose him as his vice presidential running mate.
In accepting the Democratic nomination, Biden demonstrated an eagerness to take on Republican candidate John McCain. He argued that McCain has been wrong on some of the most important issues of the past few years, including going to war in Iraq. Biden also questioned whether McCain's military background and experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam give him superior credentials to be commander in chief. "These times require more than a good soldier," Biden said. "They require a wise leader."
But most of all, Biden's emphasis was on his own biography—which Obama hopes will endear the ticket to Middle America. Biden told of how he overcame a stutter as a child, and was inspired to persevere by the work ethic of his parents (his father was a car salesman) in Scranton, Pa., and later in Wilmington, Del. Biden won election to the Senate in 1972 at age 29, but shortly thereafter endured the deaths of his first wife, Neilia, and infant daughter in a car accident. He remarried in 1977 and since then has taken the train home from Washington each night to be with his family.
"I am here for everyone I grew up with in Scranton and Wilmington," Biden told the convention. "I am here for the cops and firefighters, the teachers and assembly line workers—the folks whose lives are the very measure of whether the American dream endures. Our greatest presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy—they all challenged us to embrace change. Now, it's our responsibility to meet that challenge. Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up—back up together. Our debt to our parents and grandparents [is] too great. Our obligation to our children is too sacred."
Biden was introduced by his son Beau, 39, Delaware's attorney general and a National Guard captain who will be deployed soon to Iraq. As Beau spoke movingly of his father's love for the family and his admiration for his dad, network television cameras showed Michelle Obama in the rapt crowd, wiping away tears.