Promises to Keep by Joe Biden [Book Summary – Review]

Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, has been in politics for 50 years. Because he has been around for a long time, voters had the chance to evaluate the transformation of his beliefs, as well as the type of president he might become.

In this book review, we will talk about Joe Biden’s past life and professional life until 2008, when he became a candidate for the second time. Learn about how his Catholic upbringing impacted his ideas on justice and public service, and how encountering hardships developed him into the politics he became today.

We will also go through impressive stories about some of the main distresses that formed the US over the past decades, such as the civil rights movement and the political infighting that caused the September 11 attacks. Joe Biden’s profile draws a very distinct picture where collegiality was sovereign, and the members of the Senate were pursuing their convictions. Learning the past enables us to see the purposes of this presidential candidate for the future.

In this review, we will go through:

  • the reasons for stammering being the best difficulty of Biden;
  • how Biden happened to be an initial environmental advocate; and
  • why Jill refused his proposal five times.

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Chapter 1 – The experiences of Joe Biden during his juvenility fully prepared him for leadership.

Joe Biden had difficulty with a bad stammer during his childhood. At the times he was anxious or needed to speak in lectures, he would be afraid of these, the words would be stuck in his throat and make him feel ashamed.

The teenage Joe was decided to learn declamation in public by himself. He rehearsed the poems and speeches he learned in front of the mirror. If he stammered, he took it from the beginning, exercising the ways to loosen the muscles in his face while speaking.

Notably, in time, this obstinate exercise started to serve the purpose. Joe Biden loved to deliver speeches in front of the public and proceed easily to address thousands of people.

Biden ascribes his stammer for equipping him to be a political leader. It showed him the way to deal with hardship through complete decisiveness, something that he faced in lots of challenging conditions. This also infused him with empathy for the thing he knows very well. Joe Biden never failed to recall how it feels to be insulted and bullied.

The majority of Biden’s political philosophy comes from his childhood experiences and the knowledge he obtained from his family about the way of responding. He remembers being insulted at school by a nun who had fun with his stammer, calling him “Mr. Bu-bu-bu-biden”. Joe let his mother know about this, and she, enraged, went to the school immediately and threatened the nun to yank off her habit if she did the same ever. Biden’s mother criticized the nun and her behavior, no matter how respectable she was in the church; she hated bully more than anything.

The willingness to resist bullies can be observed all over Biden’s career, whether in the battle against racial separation, in reigning in rogue colleagues, or in going against foreign dictators. Joe Biden learned from his parents and through his Catholic faith that service to others is a divine duty and that people who have power should use their power to promote those who have been disenfranchised. Biden was motivated to be a public servant in the general meaning of the word. Whether as a public advocate, senator, or presidential contender, his will was to serve his constituents in the best way he can.

Chapter 2 – Falling in love provided Biden with the courage to follow his purposes.

You may be surprised to hear that the Democratic candidate for the Presidency was a mediocre student in college. He was intelligent but was not motivated for working hard. Similar to the majority of us, he was cramming crazily just a few days before the exam dates.

In the first two years at the University of Delaware, Biden was more willing to hang out with friends in the student hall than dive into the books.

Around these times, he insanely fell in love with a woman he met on the Bahamas beach while he was on spring break. The woman who conquered his heart was named Neilia Hunter.

Neilia is distinct from Joe in multiple ways. For example, her family was not Catholic. Furthermore, she was excessively rich. However, for the teenage couple, this meant nothing. They loved each other and they knew they were supposed to be with each other. Joe was driving 320 miles every weekend to see her. He quit football just to open up more time from the practices to meet with Neilia.

Neilia took Joe’s attention away from college. However, this made him more decided to achieve too. Neilia had unfailing trust in him. To the extent such that Biden started to trust himself more. With her impact, he focused on his last semesters in the university and achieved well enough to got into the Syracuse University, College of Law.

With Neilia’s assistance in studying for exams, he passed his final exams at law school. His next hurdle was to enter somewhere to practice law, which is an area that is known as highly competitive. Fortunately, his father introduced him to a prestigious law company in Wilmington, their home city, Prickett, Ward, Burt, and Sanders. Even though his grades are not excellent, Joe has spoken for business!

He was getting his life come together. A short time after the marriage with Neilia, they had a child on the road. And his legal career reared up. However, Joe desired further. He was willing to provide service to the public with his work.

Chapter 3 – The early professional life of Biden persuaded him to use the law to keep unguarded people safe.

Joe Biden will always remember the trial that transformed the path of his career. The law firm he had recently attended was standing for a company against one of its employees that was a welder and injured in a terrible way that will be disabled indefinitely. During the court, Biden’s manager found a gap in the law meaning the company could escape from paying compensation.

His manager was not doing something contrary to the law. He was doing his job excellently and was following the law. However, when Biden noticed the pain on the faces of the welder’s family, he recognized that he cannot continue his life using the law in this wise. While it was correct in legal terms, it was not correct morally.

Biden was getting further and further concerned about the inequality to Black people in Wilmington around those times. The city was right in the middle of the civil rights protests that are escalated after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s. In return, the governor wanted the National Guard to walk around and watch Black neighborhoods. They banned going out and threatened occupants who have loaded weapons on them.

Biden recognized that if he would continue to work at the prestigious law firm, he will not have a chance to advocate for vulnerable employees or Black people. He resigned from his job right away and started to seek a job that he can leave a mark.

The first place that comes to mind was the public attorney’s office, where Biden could advocate for people who cannot pay for their legal advisors. The majority of people he started to advocate for were Black people from the penurious district of East Wilmington. Furthermore, he attended a criminal defense firm, where he assisted to combat civil cases for people in miserable conditions.

With these practices, Biden noticed that he was able to use his law diploma to leave a positive mark on the lives of people. However, it was not sufficient. It was not enough for him to just assist individual cases. He wanted to enter a more public field. At the time the invitation for him to be a candidate for the Delaware county council came, Joe Biden observed the little chance for him to follow his diplomatic dreams.

Chapter 4 – Biden stepped into politics with a platform to save the environment.

Biden’s step into politics was not propitious. In 1969, regional democrats wanted him to think about being a candidate for a place on the New Castle County Council, a little Delaware county that majority was Republican.

It was not expected that he’d win. Anyways, he wanted to try and assigned his sister Valerie as the manager of his campaign. She made a rigorous campaign, scrutinizing each block in every district.

Biden discovered that he was attaching both sides of the political divide very well. Working-class Democrats and middle-class Republicans were demanding the identical thing: good conditions for their kids to thrive in.

Biden’s work to attach with voters served the purpose. Even though the Democrats had huge losses in the other places of the state, Biden acquired the place with 2,000 votes. He did not wait to utilize his new powers.

He especially tried to dominate the major developers that were making environmental harm in the county. In the initial 1970s, there were almost no environmental policies. Shell is let purchase thousands of acres of rudimentary seaside terrain to establish a new oil refining furnace. And even worse, developers had started to dig up fields to construct mega highways that traverse cities. The conclusion was polluted air and lots of waste that elimination of them was trouble.

Biden stopped lots of these developments and wanted stricter environmental controls before allowing developers. This decision made him very disliked by these developers and the business community, however, he obtained lots of lovers who liked his readiness for challenging battles.

As the Democratic Party in Delaware reconsidered their strategy after huge losses in the 1970 election, they adopted this fighting spirit. They were not attaching to voters and were not considered up-to-date. They established a Democratic Renewal Commission, with Biden as a constituent, and started a crucial search for spirit.

One of Delaware’s seats in the US Senate had been occupied by the same Republican since 1946. To get more impact in the state, the Democrats determined that they needed a challenger to knock him down. Who’s better than the rising star Joe Biden who was bringing excitement with his groundbreaking environmental regulations.

Chapter 5 – Anyhow, Biden won a place in the Senate.

Biden was thunderstruck when he is asked to take the seat. He was just at the beginning of his political career and he was only 29 years old. However, with the assistance of Neilia and his family, he decided to accept. Valerie Biden was assigned to the administration of the campaign again and his younger brother was assigned for fundraising, and Neilia was an all-time fellow.

From the beginning, their campaign was weak. They did not have funds and the investors were not interested in wasting money on a candidate they thought will certainly lose. After all, nobody could pass the Republican incumbent for nearly 30 years! How could this young inexperienced conjecture that he would?

However, Biden and his family benefited from their obvious weaknesses and showed them as strengths. They could not find the money for mail to send literature but they hired a network of volunteers to do the mailing and this enhanced the engagement. Rather than wooing journalists and seeking advertisement, they established minor community activities. Biden was going to at most ten coffee talks in a day in residents’ living rooms, was talking with voters and answering questions in an informal, kind way.

Furthermore, he used his age as a benefit to attract younger voters by going to high schools for speeches. These teenagers would vote for him, plus, Biden was sure that they would impact the decisions of their parents and make them consider this new candidate more seriously.

Biden frequently transformed the states of his policies until he decides brightly about the things he was fighting for and could demonstrate this brightness to the voters as well. The problems he was the best at addressing were environmental issues, voting rights, problems in healthcare, and the Vietnam war. At the time he gained the attention of mass-media with bigger talks and presidential debate stages, he had a strong foundation of followers and was disseminating a powerful, ambitious message about what he could attain.

Two months in advance of the election, Biden was following Senator Boggs by approximately 30 points in the polls. However, on election day, he amazed everyone including himself that he was the winner of the election with 3,000 votes!

After all, the incumbent was not invincible. The Democrats only required a runner with sufficient fresh boldness to have a stab.

Chapter 6 – A car accident that changed the course of life made Biden question his dedication to politics.

The 30th birthday of Biden should have been a harbinger to one of the most blissful years of him. He was going to Senate only after a few weeks, in which he could start what he have been aspired to – a renowned political career. He, with Neilia, had just moved to the outskirts of Wilmington, where they will be living in their dream house. They had three lovely kids.

However, his life suddenly and pitifully turned upside down with the car accident of Neilia and their kids just before the Christmas of 1972. Their youngest child Naomi and Neilia were dead in the car crash. Their other children, Beau and Hunter, were heavily injured and medical experts informed that Hunter might afflict continuously by his head injuries.

Biden was interviewing candidates for new personnel in Washington when the car crash occurred, however, he hurried rushed away to Wilmington to look for Hunter.

He felt like he was stuck in a nightmare in the real life. He was suffering so severely that he was thinking whether he can continue in this way and he could now understand why painful people find suicide a meaningful thing.

What maintained him to continue was the appearance of his injured children, lying wrapped in the hospital. They were so little and undefended. How could he leave them behind? For his children, he succeeded to keep alive each day.

However, Biden lost his enthusiasm for politics that ruled his life just a few weeks ago. He determined not to attend the Senate. Senators can be changed, however, fathers cannot, and now his sons required their father. He told the Senate leader Mike Mansfield that Senate should seek somebody else for his seat.

Biden’s profession in politics might have ceased at that time if his counterparts would not object to him. To tell Biden that they think of him, Senator Hubert Humphrey called the hospital daily. Mike Mansfield also explained to him that he was already in the distinguished Steering Committee and exhorted Biden not to toss away what Neilia and he had tried to achieve vigorously. Biden determined that he was under an obligation to Neilia to at least try in the Senate, and he was sworn into the office on the 5th of January, 1973.

Chapter 7 – Gradually, Biden got more attached to his work in the Senate.

The initial months in the Senate were harsh, to put it mildly. Biden was always in a mist of sorrow and fury; this was the only thing he could do to make the days past. He never missed an important briefing and was always at work, however, he went on the train to go home at the first opportunity. He did not try to meet with his counterparts at lunch, just ate on his desk alone.

Fortunately, his counterparts wanted to meet with him. Mike Mansfield and Humbert Humphrey kept looking for him at least once every week. Teddy Kennedy asked him to go to the gym, and many counterparts wanted him to come for dinner at their homes. Finally, their endeavor worked.

Even though he did not want to interact with people at the beginning, Biden started to highly appreciate the support of his counterparts. The first term of Biden in the Senate was a turbulent period in politics. The US was under the impact of the Vietnam War, and President Nixon had just been sacked. Racism and civil rights were pressing problems as was the necessity of healthcare services and social housing.

Biden’s first talk in the Senate was about financing the campaign. He discussed that political campaigns should not acquire money from outside sources since it may lead to bribery. He had experienced himself that some contributors stated they would donate them if Biden would agree to vote in their benefit. The talk was unusual among these counterparts, however, Biden was not perturbed.

This early talk demonstrated that Biden was not frightened by polemic and has principles. Throughout his profession, he exercised this. For instance, he disputed against federal money for abortion but promoted the rights of women in the selection to have one. His standing has irritated both conservatives and supporters of women’s rights. However, because these were Biden’s principles, he denied moving.

Biden’s behavior is respected from both of the two opposite sides. Since he did not vote in line with the party, he could work with both Democrats and Republicans well on what he thought crucial.

Chapter 8 – Joe Biden felt long before Jill that they were supposed to establish a life together.

After two years Biden became a senator, in March 1975, Biden dated Jill Jacobs for the first time and sensed something he forgot to feel: cheer. Biden’s brother had given the phone number of the young teacher to him and Biden called her on a whim.

As they mentioned about their lives and families, Biden sensed a unique feeling of bond and comfort. He recognized practically right away that Jill was the woman he was searching for.

However, Jill was not that certain. At the age of 24, she was nearly 10 years younger than Joe. Furthermore, she had just finished a bad marriage and was feeling good free. She did not like politics as well! How this old senator with two little kids could fit her life plans?

However, Jill saw that even the best-organized plans can alter. Even though she denied five marriage proposals and told that she wanted to maintain it casual, she was gradually and certainly falling in love. She was becoming more and more significant for Biden and his sons Beau and Hunter as well.

Joe wanted to be patient, however, he was despairing to know whether there is hope for these two in the future. He gave her an ultimatum one day: Did they must leave or would she commit to their relationship? After listening to her heart, Jill recognized that she cannot make him go. She would like to be in his life and all that required.

They got married in June 1977 in New York City, and all family went on the honeymoon. Jill was a devoted and affectionate mother to the kids in their raising. Although she did not like politics, she always bolstered Biden’s career up.

With Jill’s support, Joe obtained the confidence for a second term in the Senate, which he resolutely won. Getting out of the second term demonstrated that Biden remained in power. Leading committee positions provided him with valuable experience in foreign affairs, intelligence, and security issues. It did not take a long time to get offers from senior Democrats to go for a bigger office: the presidency of the United States.

Chapter 9 – Joe Biden belittled how cruel being a candidate for the national office can be.

Biden was assuming that his ages of experience in political turmoil in the Senate made him ready for the run to be a Democratic candidate. However, he realized when the time came in 1987 that this was more painful than he thought.

Biden’s affairs with the press were already weak. When he had attended the Senate, he was feeling that the press violated his privacy to learn the details of the deaths of Neilia and Naomi. He refrained from them as much as he can until that time.

With the willingness to run for the national office, Biden now had no close relationships to get enough place in the media. At the time he attended the race, the media was brutal. Biden was accused of being outright ostentatious and of no content. He was portrayed as a lounger in the Senate.

Despite the distorted media, Biden’s campaign accelerated. He could attach to voters of all types, and it looked like people needed messages in kindness and chances for all.

However, his campaign faced a shock with a publication of New York Times about a time when he utilized a piece of a quote of the British politician Neil Kinnock without attributing. He had utilized Kinnock’s lines at the end of the argument of a debate and forgot to mention his name. The media did not tell that the source of the video was a political competitor of Biden who was deliberately trying to blot his campaign.

There were more. Press delved into Biden’s university records and discovered that at Syracuse he’d also plagiarized a text. In conclusion, the law school determined that Biden had no intention to cheat. As a student, he did not know referencing in the right way. But media did not listen. They published a tale about the plagiarizer Biden, even during college years. The tales were destructive for Biden since they addressed his integrity, the characteristics that he valued at most.

All of this fever in the press hit at the worst time possible. Biden was presiding over controversial candidacy cases for a Supreme Court judge. And the assaults on his personality threatened the operations to go out of their ways, in addition to his campaign.

He had no choice but to withdraw from the race.

Chapter 10 – In front of death, Biden was pushed to think of his way of living again.

Finally, withdrawing from the race was a blessing. During the campaign, Biden had gone through excruciating headaches and sometimes needed to take over ten painkillers a day. He ignored them thinking they are because of stress and effort, however, the real reason was much more malicious.

One night, after a long talk, Biden headed back to his hotel room and fainted. Doctors discovered an aneurysm beneath his brain. If he continued the campaign, it would possibly cause his death before diagnosis.

He had the opportunity for a full recovery, but only after a delicate and very risky operation.

After some operations and months of recovery, Biden succeeded. However, he was a different man. 

It was the first time he could find an opportunity to relax in a long time. He recognized there were more significant things than living life at such a pace. The fear of health provided the political world with the perspective. Biden was still passionate about his occupation, however, he understood that he needed a balance in between his job and the other loved things.

Time to rest also allowed Biden to consider the mark he wanted to have in the world. His control of the candidacy for the Supreme Court had been largely complimented as delicate and just. He had more things to attain as a senator in his mind.

When he returned to the Senate, he started to take on uptight projects such as developing a Violence Against Women Act that dealt with the widespread household violence in the USA. Furthermore, he started to address foreign policy, lobbying the president at that time, Clinton, to act against Slobodan Milošević, the former president of the former Yugoslavia, who was accused of offenses against mankind during the Kosovo War in May 1999.

Being forced to stop in his long recovery to health made Biden turn back as more resolute. He decided his focal points and how to use his strengths. He also decided to work in the Senate for a long time.

Chapter 11 – The war in Iraq was meaningless and eventually forced Biden to be a presidential candidate again.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center transformed the USA in such a way that Biden could never have thought of.

Immediately after, he was stunned by the wave of solidarity from the rest of the world. He considered that the disaster could open new doors to collaborate with other countries and combat terrorism at an international level.

The president at that time, Bush, looked ready to follow this type of foreign policy and Colin Powell, the secretary of state, was a loyal internationalist. However, Biden underrated the impact of Vice President Dick Cheney and the head of the Department of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  With their lead, Bush ordered the USA to enter into war with Iraq, a war that would cause the loss of billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

The war in Iraq was qualified with deterioration, inadequacy, and a hazardous ignorance of human life. By breaking the Geneva convention, and promoting cruelty at Guantanamo Bay, tarnished the US reputation as a moral leader.

When Bush selected in 2004 again, Biden was broken. He recognized that the USA would proceed to hurt in the second term of Bush and the future of the country was bounded up with the Democrats being able to get back authority in 2008. For once, he substantially thought to turn back to be a candidate for the presidency. However, he was also considering the influence of it on his family, and the extent Jill and his children went through in the previous campaign.

When the Biden family gathered for the annual Christmas holiday, Jill said to him that they were meeting as a family. He assumed that they would request him not to be a candidate, but he was mistaken. Jill said to him that they would like to see him make a bid for the presidency. His family were believing him for being qualified to unite the country and they wanted to support him.

The topic has been determined. Biden announced that he would be a Democratic candidate in 2008. Approximately 20 years after his first try, he now completely noticed why he would like this presidency and what he would make on the first day as the president.

Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics by Joe Biden Book Review

Joe Biden’s lengthy and hectic career in politics is remarkable for his unwavering devotion to his principles. Starting with his initial times on the county council, he scuffled for his faith, even though not popular. Biden experienced hardships in his individual and professional life, however, by giving this head-on, he was able to turn more powerful and more flexible. Furthermore, while his first Democratic candidacy in 1987 was unfortunate, Biden was irrepressible. He wanted to be a candidate again in 2008 since he felt that he was qualified to unite the country, and was fixed on serving as the president of the US.

Understand the type of assistance your loved ones require.

The family of Biden’s motto is that at the time somebody asks for assistance, it is already tardy. During the worst times of his life, Biden’s family supported him without needing his inquiry and kept certain that he felt he was loved. If your family or a friend is in hardship, take a lesson from Biden’s family: demonstrate your support to them rather than waiting for them to ask for it.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile:

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