Last updated: March 17. 2014 11:57PM - 3501 Views
By Bill O’Boyle boboyle@civitasmedia.com

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Photos of Vice President Biden’s visit, page 5A

PLAINS TWP. —T.J. Kearns came to the dinner prepared.

Kearns, 8, of West Pittston, said he’s a very picky eater, so he brought his “dinner” to the dinner.

“It’s a peanut butter sandwich,” Kearns said.

No ham or corned beef and cabbage for this young man.

Kearns was excited about getting to see and hear Vice President Joe Biden address the Greater Pittston Friendly Sons at the organization’s 100th anniversary dinner at The Woodlands.

“It’s all he will eat,” said Tommy Kearns, T.J.’s father, about the sandwich. “He’s just so excited to see the vice president.”

T.J. had one concern.

“I hope Vice President Biden gives me a homework slip,” he said, noting that he didn’t have time to complete his homework before departing home for the dinner.

Biden, a native of Scranton, talked about his Irish roots. His mother, Kitty Finnegan, instilled many Irish qualities in her “Joey,” he said. And Biden talked about his Irish ancestors and others who made the laborious and dangerous voyage from Ireland to the U.S. in the 1800s.

Biden told the 600-plus in attendance of the Irish immigrants who struggled to come to a new world and he urged them to support a “rational immigration policy” to deal with the estimated 11 million people currently in the country illegally.

Biden was introduced by his close friend, Stephen Cozen, founder of the Cozen O’Connor law firm in Philadelphia, who called the vice president “a street guy” who possesses the Irish gift of gab.

Biden got to the podium and wondered why the Friendly Sons couldn’t find an Irish guy from Pittston or Scranton to introduce him. “So you got as Jewish guy from Philadelphia?” he asked. “I’m starting to wonder about this group.”

Biden talked about his his mother, grandfather and great-grandfather instilled in him a sense of pride in being from Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“We were always taught to have a sense of self-worth,” he said. “No one was better than anyone; all were equal.”

Biden said his mother taught him what it meant to be Irish — family, faith and courage.

“Loyalty was the highest value in my house,” he said. “We were taught to never forget where we came from and that didn’t just mean Scranton.”

Biden said his family moved to Delaware when he was 10 because after living six block from the Caseys, “We knew only one of us was going to make it.”

Biden said when he dies, “Northeastern Pennsylvania will be on my heart.” And he added, “Thank you all for bringing me home. May the hinges of friendship never grow rusty.”

Mayor Bob Boyer of Wyoming Borough, brought his grandson, Kyle Zeller, to the dinner. Zeller, 11, is a fifth-grade student at Greater Nanticoke Area.

“This is pretty crazy; I’m so excited,” Zeller said of getting to see and hear the vice president. “I couldn’t stop talking about it at school today.”

Zeller said he hopes to one day enter the political arena. “It’s a big honor to have him here in our area,” he said.

Attorney Joe Quinn was waiting for Biden to arrive and he said Biden’s appearance was “special” for the region.

“Joe Biden has been an outstanding public servant,” Quinn said. “He has never forgotten his roots in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Frank Costantino of Duryea said Biden’s appearance was “a big event” for the area.

“What an opportunity it is to see Vice President Biden here in Wilkes-Barre,” he said.

Honored at the dinner were: Shawn Casey, DDS, as “Man of the Year,” and Charlie Grimes, who received the “Swingle Award” for his work in the community.Joseph J. Joyce, Jr., was presented the “Achievement Award.”

Biden left the dinner immediately after his speech. According to the Associated Press, he is heading to Europe “to send a clear signal” to Russian President Vladimir Putin about his intervention in Ukraine.

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