Days after Philadelphians danced in the street at the news of his election, President-elect Joe Biden stopped in the city for a more solemn ceremony Wednesday, laying a wreath at the Korean War Memorial at Penn’s Landing in honor of Veterans Day.
Biden and his wife, Jill, visited the site near Columbus Boulevard for around 15 minutes, standing with Mayor Jim Kenney and Judge Patrick Dugan to lay a red, white, and blue floral wreath near the black marble columns as U.S. and Korean flags flew overhead. More than 100 people gathered on the grassy hill near the memorial, snapping cell phone pictures and occasionally cheering, according to a pool report.
“It means the world,” said Dugan, chief judge of Philadelphia Veterans Court, an Army veteran, and board member of the Friends of the Korean War Memorial. “It means a lot, to have the president-elect come here to Philadelphia, to this memorial.”
Biden’s low-profile visit to Philadelphia — home to more than 59,600 veterans — was initiated by the mayor’s team, a spokesperson said, who reached out to the president-elect to see whether he would be willing to attend the small ceremony.
Dugan added that he was “sworn to secrecy" about the visit, bringing a group of honor guard members to the memorial under the guise of filming for a documentary.
Biden didn’t make public remarks during the visit but tweeted while he was in Philadelphia that “today, we honor the service of those who have worn the uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States. To our proud veterans — I will be a commander in chief who respects your sacrifice, understands your service, and will never betray the values you fought so bravely to defend.”
At the Korean War Memorial, Biden — whose late son, Beau, was major in the Delaware Army National Guard — spoke privately with a few people, including Dugan. The judge said Biden is “a huge supporter of Veterans Court," a treatment court model that aids veterans charged with crimes who are also struggling with addiction or mental illness.
Due to COVID-19, Dugan said, many older veterans in their 80s and 90s were not able to witness Biden’s visit to the Philadelphia memorial in person, but a plan is in the works to send video of the moment to those who couldn’t be there.
“That’s the only thing that’s a little upsetting,” he added, “because [of] the pride that they have [and] the pride that I feel for them today.”
Kenney, meanwhile, called Biden’s stop “a welcomed opportunity to congratulate him and our future first lady in person.”
“I’m honored that President-elect Biden and Dr. Jill Biden chose to join us in Philadelphia on this important day of remembrance,” Kenney said. “I expressed that the City of Philadelphia stands by to support his administration, and we look forward to working together on our many shared priorities.”
Biden’s visit to Pennsylvania comes amid a fraught political backdrop as President Donald Trump has continued to reject the results of the election and make false voting claims about the commonwealth — which have been echoed by state Republican leaders — despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
Trump attended a wreath-laying ceremony Wednesday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, where he, too, made no public remarks, but tweeted a livestream video of the event.