Joe Biden struggled to hold back tears as Barack Obama awarded the outgoing Vice-President the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest US civilian honour.

Just days before handing over power to Donald Trump, President Obama hailed his number two as “the best Vice-President America has ever had” and acknowledged: “This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our bromance.”

When concluding his remarks, he surprised Biden by announcing the honor – a special version of the medal that has only been awarded to three other people: Pope John Paul II, former President Ronald Reagan and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Obama said.

Biden, already teary during the tribute, began crying when the award was announced.

“I had no inkling,” Biden said, taking the podium after Obama awarded him the medal.

Obama honored Biden’s lifetime of public service, including his decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president, from championing the Violence Against Women Act, his diplomacy, his “cancer moonshot,” and his “It’s On Us” campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

“That’s a pretty remarkable legacy, an amazing career in public service. It is, as Joe once said, a big deal,” Obama said, pausing between the “big” and the “deal.”

“To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: You were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best,” Obama said in Chicago on Tuesday. “Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.”

Obama at surprise Biden send-off: “This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our bromance.”

— CNN (@CNN) January 12, 2017

Both men have been outspoken about the deep friendship they have forged over their eight years in the White House, and Thursday’s event was no different, with both speaking in personal terms about each other and their families.

“Behind the scenes, Joe’s candid, honest counsel has made me a better president and a better commander in chief,” Obama said. “From the Situation Room, to our weekly lunches, to our huddles after everybody else has cleared out of the room, he has been unafraid to give it to me straight, even if we disagree. In fact, especially when we disagree. And all of this makes him, I believe, the finest vice president we have ever seen.”


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