Jun 24, 2021
Joe Biden Eulogy Speech at Funeral for John Warner
Joe Biden delivered a June 23, 2021 eulogy for former United States Senator John Warner. Read the full speech transcript here.
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President Biden: (06:14)
Deliver your servant, John, sovereign Lord Christ from all evil and set him free from every bond that he may rest with all your saints in the eternal habitations, wherewith the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign one God forever and ever. Amen.
Speaker 1: (06:37)
Let us also pray for all who mourn that they may cast their care on God and to know the consolation of his love.
President Biden: (06:49)
All mighty God looked with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom we pray. Remember them, Lord in mercy, nourish them in patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness. Lift up your countenance upon them and give them peace through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen. Please stand as you are able. I am resurrection and I am life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die. And everyone who has life and has committed himself to me in faith shall not die forever. As for me, I know that my redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. After my awakening, he will raise me up and in my body, I shall see God. I myself shall see and my eyes behold him, who is my friend and not a stranger.
Speaker 1: (10:10)
For none of us has life in himself and none becomes his own master when he dies. For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord. And if we die, we die in the Lord. So then whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s possession. Happy from now on are those who die in the Lord. So it is, says the spirit, for they rest from their labors.
Randy Hollerith: (11:26)
Good morning and welcome to Washington National Cathedral. My name is Randy Hollerith, and I am the dean of the cathedral. And on behalf of Mariann Budde, the Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, and all of us who serve this cathedral, it is an honor for us to be able to host this service today. This cathedral is a house of prayer for all people, and we are indeed honored to be able to welcome all of you. Senator Warner was a great friend of this cathedral and we celebrate his life and lift up his legacy today. So let us begin with singing Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.
Randy Hollerith: (12:07)
President Biden: (15:02)
Reverend Hollerith, distinguished clergy, members of the Congress, and our military, distinguished guests, Jeanne, Virginia, John, Mary, and Andrew, the Warner family, it’s a great honor to be invited to speak a few moments about John. A few days after John’s passing, I visited Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. A sacred place on a solemn day when we undertake the fundamental act of remembrance. And amid the moments that I was there and the monuments of stone, we remembered each marker represented a precious life.
President Biden: (15:59)
Remembered the heroes of the greatest generation the world has ever known, and that bears a noble name, the United States of America. The only nation founded on an idea, that we’re all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and a democracy that is the very soul of our nation, and that must be defended at all costs. A soul embodied by all those patriots buried in Arlington and the fields across the world, and by our dear friend, John Warner.
President Biden: (16:58)
Like many here, I had the privilege of serving with John for three decades in the United States Senate. While we represented different political parties, I can say without hesitation, John was a man of conscience, character, and honor, with a deep commitment to God and country. Enlisted in the Navy, in the United States Navy, at age 17 to fight in World War II. A few years later enlisted in the Marine Corps to fight in Korea. Eventually named Secretary of the Navy by President Nixon, then elected to the United States Senate where he became a towering and respected voice on foreign policy, national security, and defense. The second longest serving senator from Virginia, and the longest serving Republican. A member of the Greatest Generation, and as that he understood that democracy is more than a form of government. Democracy is a way of being.
President Biden: (18:19)
He understood it begins and grows in an open heart and with a willingness to work across the aisle and come together in common cause, and that empathy, empathy is the fuel of democracy. The willingness to see each other as opponents, not as enemies. Above all, to see each other as fellow Americans, even when we disagree. From John’s perspective, especially when we disagree. That’s how John forged consensus and made sure our system worked and delivered for the people. I saw it time and again on issues of war and peace. John opposing torture, and ending gun violence, on protecting the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary. John’s decisions were always guided by his values, by his convictions, and never by personal political consequences. And was always guided by his obligation to all those he represented, even those who did not vote for him.
President Biden: (19:57)
Every senator wears the pride of his or her state on their sleeve, but John’s love for the people of Virginia was something special. And they loved him back. They kept reelecting him because they knew John understood the job of senator was bigger than himself. It was about more than just John. And as we say in the Senate, ” Excuse me a point of personal privilege.” When John endorsed me for president last year, it carried an extra meaning for me. The senators and congresspersons here will understand this. It wasn’t merely that a prominent Republican endorsed me. When John endorsed me, it gave me confidence. Not about winning, about being able to do the job. John gave me confidence. You know, in the battle for the soul of America today John Warner is a reminder of what we can do when we come together as one nation.
President Biden: (21:22)
While we’ve never made real the full promise of America to all Americans, John’s life is a reminder that every generation, every generation has opened the door of opportunity, a little bit wider. Every one. And the mission handed down generation to generation is to work at perfecting the union, a mission he now leaves us with a way forward. That’s the power of remembrance. It lies not just in our history, but in our hope for the future, not just in our solace, but in our strength. It lies in our hearts to continue the work of democracy, the work of our time, of all time, and the work of John’s whole life. To John’s senate staff, thank you for your service, for all you’ll do to carry on John’s legacy. And to his family, Jeanne, Virginia, John, Mary, Andrew, Jill, I know it hurts to remember. Sometimes it just hurts to remember. But it’s also the way to heal, to remember.
President Biden: (23:06)
The Bible teaches, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” While comfort can be a long time in coming, I promise you it will come. It will give you purpose in his memory, in his love for you, and his love for this country. Virginia, I know you’ll be reciting your father’s favorite poem, sort of an anthem. Here’s another one that describes him so well in my view. It means a great deal to my family and to me. It’s called American Anthem. ” The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day. What shall be our legacy? What will our children say? Let me know in my heart when my days are through. America, America, I gave my best to you.” John Warner gave his best to America, and to the best of my knowledge, to everybody he had a relationship with. May God bless him. He was a good man, a great American. It was an honor to have known him and to work with him.
Michael Mullen: (25:47)
Mr. President, congressional leaders, distinguished guests, and the Warner family. It is a great privilege to spend a few minutes recalling this great man. My first Warner siting was in 1971. We all remember ours. Don’t we? I was in the packed wardroom of the aircraft carrier USS America while deployed to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. Then Under Secretary of the Navy, John Warner, addressed hundreds of officers after a major NATO exercise at the height of the Cold War. I was a young lieutenant JG sitting in the bleacher seats all the way in the back. I don’t remember everything that he said, but I sure do remember the way he made us feel. He was a galvanizing, riveting, some would say almost swashbuckling presence that electrified the audience, especially with his storytelling, which was legendary. The Navy at that time was in heavy seas with a new and revolutionary CNO, even as our country was in great internal turmoil while fighting a very unpopular war in Vietnam. Yet here was John Warner leading from the front in very difficult times, and reassuring all of us in the strength of our nation and in the brightness of our future, as he would today I am sure. He made us, he made me, feel proud. Proud to be in the Navy, proud to serve my country, proud to be an American, just like him. I will always be grateful, as I’m sure everyone here is, for my professional and personal relationship with Secretary, Senator, Chairman, John Warner. Deborah and I want to express our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the-
Michael Mullen: (28:03)
Debra and I want to express our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Jeanne and the entire Warner family. He was truly a great man and an extraordinary patriot and he will be sorely missed. I am most grateful for his untiring and relentless support of our young women and men in uniform. He was always our champion. We knew that, and we needed that. His life encapsulated much of our nation’s history in war and peace, starting with his own service in uniform. He and I often greeted each other recalling the fondness of our youth. He would refer to himself as Petty Officer Third Class Warner, and I would always respond as Lieutenant Mullen.
Michael Mullen: (28:52)
We both knew who outranked whom, but no one was prouder of his own service than John Warner. His time as an enlisted sailor in World War II and as a young Marine officer in the Korean War truly shaped the rest of his life. Many years later, while in service to the great Commonwealth of Virginia and our nation, our paths would cross frequently and sometimes intimately as we were yet again a nation at war this time in Iraq and Afghanistan. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, his wisdom and insight were powerful, even critical.
Michael Mullen: (29:34)
He chaired that committee in true bipartisan fashion, always leading with integrity while seeking to do what was best based on his unwavering principles. He spoke out early and often on the need for the United States to adhere to the Geneva Convention, and he denounced torture. He was a steady even keeled voice in a growing cacophony of partisanship. We could count on him to lead with his values. Now John Warner love all of the branches of the armed services, but he really loved the Navy. Always dressed to the nines, he very frequently wore his blue and gold striped tie.
Michael Mullen: (30:20)
And man did he love Navy ships. He loved to fund them. He loved to build them, especially in Virginia. He scolded me once when I was CNO of our lack of funding for building. He said, “I’m sure you know, Admiral, that the constitution gives Congress the responsibility to raise an army, but it also calls on us to provide and maintain a Navy. He said there was a big difference between those two sets of verbs. It meant that there would always be a Navy and that meant we’d always be building ships. And that meant I’d better get after it if I knew what was good for me.
Michael Mullen: (31:08)
And now one of those ships is his namesake, the USS John Warner SSN-785 and the love of his life, Jeanne, is her sponsor. The USS John Warner is the first of the Virginia class submarines to be named after an individual. How fitting is that? I can still see John and Jeanne’s beaming faces on the day that ship was commissioned and his broad grin. He looked like a possum eating a sweet potato. And we know how proud both Jeanne and he were of their ship’s crew. If you want to know just how much think of this, Chairman Warner wore his honorable service pin from world war two on the lapel of his suit jacket for 30 years as a Senator.
Michael Mullen: (31:57)
That same pin now resides in the ship that bears his name. Yes, he loves ships, but he really loves sailors. In typical Warner fashion, he would spontaneously call up one of the enlisted sailors on his submarine just to say hello and add a thank you for what they were doing for our country. He would sometimes regale them with sea stories and some of those stories were actually true. He liked to recall his bus trip to Navy bootcamp. It was 1944. The war was still raging. John was a skinny scrappy, young lad of 17. He had to get his parents permission to sign up.
Michael Mullen: (32:42)
Anyway, somewhere along the route, he got the idea to throw all of the underwear his mother had given him out the window. I’m sure there was a moral to that one, but I never quite figured it out. And he would only wear his submarines ball cap with the embroidered silver dolphins of an enlisted submariner, not the senior officer’s ball cap with the gold scrambled eggs. You always knew where his heart was. That crew will miss his visits and his phone calls, no question. And like him and us, they will never forget. In every way over the course of his life, John Warner was the exemplar.
Michael Mullen: (33:27)
Even in the waning years of his life, he reached back to World War I, a war, his father, Dr. Warner fought and was gassed in. Senator Warner helped establish the recently opened memorial near the mall to recognize the more than 4.7 million men and women who served in that war, including the 116,000 who gave their lives for freedom and democracy. He often reminded me of the need to be constantly ready as he was well aware, we had let our guard down after World War I. In fact, I was last with him here in this special cathedral as the nation commemorated the anniversary of 11-11-11, the month, the day and the hour of the end of the great war.
Michael Mullen: (34:16)
We walked arm-in-arm down this very aisle together, the petty officer and the lieutenant, friends and shipmates. John Warner is defined by his service to the American people. But the most important part of his legacy is his family. Three children, Virginia, John, Mary, and two beloved grandchildren. His pride in you was an unbounded and our hearts ache for and with you. And no one has had more impact on him than you, Jeanne. And we as a nation are so grateful for you. John was indeed sent by God for you, as you once said. More importantly, you were sent by God to him.
Michael Mullen: (35:06)
He was a lucky guy. He knew it and so did we. So chairman, Senator colleague, sailor, Marine, friend, and shipmate, we bid you farewell. We will miss you greatly. I will miss you greatly. Thank you for always making me feel proud, just like you did so long ago in that hot, stuffy wardroom aboard USS America. I so much look forward to the day we can again greet each other as we always did, Petty Officer Third Class Warner and Lieutenant Mullen. Fair winds and following seas, Petty Officer Warner. May you rest in peace in the loving hands of our Lord.
Speaker 2: (35:56)
President Biden: (41:51)
Jeanne, to Warner children and grandchildren and family. Lisa and I join so many here today offering our deepest sympathy. Mr. President, my fellow members of Congress-
President Biden: (42:03)
Mr. President, my fellow members of Congress, some many distinguished Virginians and friends. We’re gathered here today to pay our respects to a great American, a great Virginian, and to so many of us here today, a great friend. John Warner was a statesman. He was a public servant. Most of all, he was a patriot. As we’ve heard, John had a career that stretched from World War II and Korea to 30 years in the United States Senate. So nobody needs to be told that John Warner loved his country and believed in public service. But what some folks might find more surprising in this day and age is that despite our political differences, he was my good friend. Now I don’t mean that in the way that sometimes we in the Senate like to call somebody you can’t stand “my friend” on the floor of the Senate. I mean he was my actual, honest to God, personal friend, and we cared deeply about each other.
President Biden: (43:27)
And John Warner’s friendship isn’t the kind of thing that you take for granted because frankly, given the way that we first got to know each other, he would have been well within his rights if he had not decided to give me the time of day. It was back in 1996. I had never run for public office, but I decided it would be a good idea to challenge Senator John Warner, who was running for his fourth term. Now for the Virginians, remember that Warner vs Warner race confused the heck out of everybody in Virginia. Just about the only interesting thing that our campaign came up with was this clever bumper strip that said simply on it, “Mark, not John.” And honest to goodness, and I’ve told this story many times, I was campaigning one day down in Danville. I got out, somebody looked at my car, saw the bumper strip, and he said, “Excuse me, sir, is that a biblical reference?”
President Biden: (44:35)
Well, there was no divine intervention that year and at the end of a spirited but respectful campaign, the right Warner won the race. And I will be forever grateful that afterwards, rather than the holding the campaign against me, as many would, John, who was already a towering institution in Virginia politics, while I was frankly just a young upstart, we built a friendship.
President Biden: (45:06)
That’s who John was, a class act. He was also, frankly, a lot of fun to be around. But more than that, this has already been mentioned, he was a leader of substance who delivered for Virginia and for his country for 30 years in the United States Senate. As Admiral Mullen has already indicated, there isn’t a sailor, soldier, airman, or Marine anywhere in Virginia, for that matter anywhere in the country, who doesn’t owe a debt of gratitude to John Warner.
President Biden: (45:43)
He could always be trusted to put country and Commonwealth ahead of politics. John never shied away from taking a tough position, even if sometimes it invited criticism. I remember when I was governor, we were dealing with a multi-billion dollar deficit. We didn’t know what we’re going to do. So I called our senior senator to see if he’d be willing to weigh in, come down to Richmond, and help us close the gap with some of the legislators I needed to convince.
President Biden: (46:15)
Again, I was the Democratic governor calling a senior Republican senator to get involved in a state issue. And the truth be told, even some of his most loyal senior staff who were here, advised him not to do it. You know what John did. First he said, “Mark, if you want this for Virginia, I will be there.” So we smuggled him into the governor’s office, trying to make sure the press wouldn’t see, had a conversation. He went up to the third floor and did his own press conference. And he said, “Politics be damned.” And he stomped the podium. He said, “This is the right thing to do for Virginia.” It was like Zeus had come down from Olympus.
President Biden: (47:04)
And you know what? We got it done. Virginia kept a AAA bond rating. We made a record investment in education. We got named the best managed state. And I don’t have a doubt in my mind that that would not have happened if John Warner hadn’t been willing to put his own personal capital on the line for what he thought was right for Virginia.
President Biden: (47:36)
Virtually everyone here who served with him could stay here all day and tell stories about John Warner like this because unlike so many in elected office, John Warner was never afraid of putting his credibility, his reputation, his good name behind something when it mattered.
President Biden: (47:59)
I think about the 1994 Senate race. I think about his involvement in questions about the Iraq war. I think about again, as Admiral Mullen and President Biden already said, his constant willingness to fight for a strong defense. Sometimes that earned John criticism from folks on my side and folks on his own side of the aisle. As for his response to that criticism, John said simply, “That’s the price of leadership.”
President Biden: (48:34)
Until the day he died, John never hesitated to speak out when he thought things had gone astray. In recent years, despite his ostensible retirement from public life, he spoke often about the concern for our country, for our leaders, for his beloved Senate, which he often worried had lost its way. Over the last few years, I had a great honor. John and I did a lot of joint appearances, joint speeches. Last year at the age of 93, John was kind enough to… Once again, he’d endorsed me in 2014, he endorsed me again. So he said he’d come to a fundraiser for me. And it is, [Jeanie 00:49:21], as you know, one of the great honors of my life is that he was kind enough to support me.
President Biden: (49:28)
Remember the event. John got up, did the introduction. I got up, gave my pitch, was winding down, thinking, “Gosh, we can go home now.” John stood back up. At this point, he’s using a walking stick, and just cracked me in the shins and said, “Sit down, Mark. I’ve got some more to say.” And for the next 30 minutes, John told stories only in a way, with all due respect to all the senators here, only in a way that John Warner could. Boy, oh boy. (silence)