Former Vice President Joe Biden was named chair of the National Constitution Center late Tuesday, adding to the list of lustrous names that have headed its board over the years.
NCC president and CEO Jeffrey Rosen said that the NCC board of trustees voted unanimously to select Biden, and that his term would begin immediately. He succeeds former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In a statement released by the NCC, Biden said he was honored to serve as its chair.
“The National Constitution Center’s mission to teach all Americans about the great document of human freedom that unites us has never been more timely, urgently needed, and inspiring,” he said.
Rosen said that having Biden as chair will bolster the NCC’s work reaching out to average citizens to deepen public understanding of the nation’s founding document.
“Everyone is thrilled that Vice President Biden has agreed to be our chair,” Rosen said. “Ever since he was in the Senate, the vice president has been passionate about teaching Americans about the Constitution and he cares about it deeply. It is hard to imagine a better leader for the Constitution Center in the years to come.”
A gifted politician who got his start riding a surge of anti-war sentiment during the Vietnam conflict, Biden long cultivated a reputation as a centrist politician with a down-to-earth persona that helped him win six elections to the U.S. Senate, representing Delaware.
Biden was one of a tiny group of senators and House members who stayed on Capitol Hill on Sept. 11, 2001, after that day’s terrorist attacks, chatting with reporters and passersby on the lawn outside the Russell Senate office building, trying to convey a sense of stability and order in the otherwise deserted city.
Longtime friends and associates trace Biden’s accessible style to his blue-collar roots. Whatever the origin, his trademark seems to be a willingness to talk to almost anyone. As vice president under President Barack Obama, he was seen as having close ties to blue-collar Democrats.
Rosen has strived to create a welcoming and respectful atmosphere at the NCC, where experts of varying ideological stripes can engage in civil discourse on the most compelling constitutional issues of the day. Biden is uniquely suited to lead the NCC, Rosen said, because of his ability to reach out to different groups.
“He really cares about the Constitution,” Rosen said. “In a time of polarization, it is especially important that the NCC embody this spirit of convening people of different perspectives to unite around the one document that defines who we are.”
Previous chairs, in addition to Jeb Bush, have included former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.