When Joe Biden was growing up as a Catholic boy in Pennsylvania and Delaware, his car-salesman father, who loathed self-pity, gave his son some advice that has helped him endure some of the toughest moments of his 77 years: “Get up!”

“That was his phrase and it has echoed through my life,” Biden wrote in his autobiography, Promises to Keep. It helped him tackle small problems — like when a “girl’s parents won’t let her go out with a Catholic boy” — and to survive trauma, such as when his wife and baby daughter were killed in a car crash weeks after his 1972 election as US senator from Delaware.

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