Vice President Joe Biden is known for saying what’s on his mind.
Sometimes, this works against him, but other times this penchant results in resounding philosophical nuggets.
Biden offered one of these Thursday at a Jewish community-sponsored memorial for Shimon Peres, and in the process paid tribute to the former Israeli prime minister and president who died on Sept. 28.
“Tip O’Neill said that all politics is local,” said Biden, referring to a longtime speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. “Well, I’ve been saying for the past 25 years that all politics is personal, particularly international relations. It’s all personal.
“And that’s where Shimon Peres was at his best,” he continued. “That’s why he accomplished so much.”
In a wide-ranging tribute to Peres at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, Biden praised Peres, whom he said he knew for 45 years, for the personal attributes that can drive politics at the highest levels.
“He always touched your heart,” Biden said. “That’s what Shimon did; he touched your heart.”
Biden also said that Peres was special because of his sincere desire for peace with the Arabs.
“[Peres said], I don’t want to see [the Arabs] losing again,” Biden said. “He said, I don’t want them and us. What I want us to do is win the peace. Who else would say that?”
Biden also praised Peres for being forward thinking in front of the crowd of 600 attendees.
“At a time when many could have wrapped themselves in the comforts of their accomplishments, Shimon Peres insisted that, ‘my greatest achievement in life will be tomorrow,’” the vice president said.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who spoke before Biden, echoed this sentiment by saying that Peres’ legacy will be completed by the future.
“When that day [of peace] comes, I have no doubt that those present will express their appreciation to Shimon Peres,” she said.
One member of the audience, Gladys Temkin of Washington, said that she came to the memorial because she “wanted to hear a bit of history.”
“I took from Biden’s speech his solidarity with [Peres] as a human being, his personal connection, and his use of the term ‘possibility’ in the sense of connecting both America’s essence and Israel’s essence,” she said.
Adas Israel Senior Rabbi Gil Steinlauf said Peres’ life was reminiscent of that of Moses.
“Like Moses, Shimon was a leader in times of war and in times of peace,” he said. “He bore witness to miracles and he led us on a journey that forged us into a great nation.”
Biden called himself as a Zionist and described Peres’ connection to the United States.
“I think his ability to insist on the human capacity for good, his belief that we can shape our own destinies is why Shimon Peres always connected so deeply with the American people — Jews and non-Jews,” Biden said. “Because ultimately the relationship between Israel and the United States is not about defense systems and security assistance. It’s about our shared soul.”
Biden also praised Peres’ role as a visionary within Israel.
“Throughout his life, at every moment in the state of Israel’s history, Shimon Peres was the voice of hope,” said Biden. “He was the conscience and the soul of Israel.”