The former vice president appeared at Merrill Auditorium with former Sen. George Mitchell.

Former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine, left, chats with former Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, where Biden talked about his new memoir. Staff photo by Joel Page

Former Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Maine to promote his new book Wednesday night, but said nothing about whether he might run for president.

Biden appeared at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium with former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who asked about Biden’s new memoir, “Promise Me Dad, A Year of Hope Hardship and Purpose,” which deals with the death of his son, Beau Biden. Beau Biden died in May 2015 from brain cancer. He was 46-years-old.

His 75-year-old father, who served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009, is viewed as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020.

Biden said he wrote the book partly because he wanted people to know that however bad life gets, you can always find hope.

While the first part of the roughly one-hour long chat focused on how Biden has dealt with life’s challenges, his accomplishments in the U.S. Senate and his reluctance, at least at first, to serve as President Barack Obama’s vice president, toward the end of the evening Biden talked about the future of the country.

It began with a question from Mitchell about his relationship with Obama, and how initially he told Obama that he did not want to serve as vice president. Biden referred to the former president as ‘Barack’ throughout the evening.


“I’m not calling him president because I don’t want to confuse him with the other guy,” Biden said, a comment that produced cheers and applause from the audience.

Biden said his friendship with Obama grew over their years serving together and their families still hang out. Biden served as vice president from 2009 to 2017.

“We had the same value set and our families grew close,” Biden said.

Mitchell asked Biden what he thought about America’s prospects. “I don’t want to plunge into the turmoil that exists in our country now,” Mitchell added.

Biden told Mitchell he is “incredibly optimistic” about the nation’s future. He praised American workers for being the most productive in the world, said the nation is at the epicenter of energy resources in North America, and that the United States has the best research universities in the world.

But, he said, “there is one thing that worries me and it’s not the president’s behavior.”


He said the rise of the alt-right movement – the groups associated with white supremacists, neo-nazis and fringe hate groups – poses a danger to the fabric and morals of American society. He said he didn’t think he would ever see people carrying torches and wearing swastikas again, but it has happened since Trump took office.

He said it wasn’t fitting for Trump to say that white nationalists who clashed with protesters last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, included some “very fine people,” while demonstrating against removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

“We have to remember, our children are listening,” Biden told the audience.

Biden said he has faith in the American people, saying they won’t tolerate such extremist groups.

“I believe you are going to see a significant change in the next election,” Biden said, a remark that promoted one woman to yell, “Run Joey, run.”

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