‘You can call me Bidden:’ Biden laughs off flubbed names, gives heartfelt tribute to the Kennedys during speech on cancer

Biden's impassioned speech about bettering the lives of people affected by cancer was punctuated by some notable flubs and a long, heartfelt tribute.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston on Monday. Biden is speaking about his Cancer Moonshot initiative and his goal of cutting cancer deaths and improving the lives of people affected by cancer on the 60th anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy's "Moonshot" speech. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden has a habit of flubbing lines on the campaign trail, and during his “Cancer Moonshot” speech on Monday in Boston, he had some memorable moments.

During his speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Biden spoke about what his administration is doing to reach goals he set in February to cut U.S. cancer fatalities by 50% over the next 25 years and dramatically improve the lives of cancer patients and their caregivers.

Biden referenced Boston’s best and brightest during the speech, including former Boston mayor and current Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, whose name was lovingly pronounced “Mah-ty.”


But, in an unfortunate flub, the president messed up the name of the newly appointed head of the National Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgical oncologist Monica Bertagnolli.

When it came time to recognize Bertagnolli, Biden misspoke and called the oncologist “Monica Bertalia.”

Biden quickly recovered, apologizing and pronouncing her name correctly. He then played it off with a joke, saying “Monica, you can call me Bidden.”

Bertagnolli’s name wasn’t the only one Biden got wrong during the speech. Earlier, Biden called Massachusetts 4th Congressional District Rep. Jake Auchincloss “Jack” before correcting himself.

Sadly for Auchincloss, this isn’t the first time Biden has flubbed his name, though this time it was far less egregious a mistake.

In July, Biden stumbled through Auchincloss’s name, referencing him as Rep. “Auchincloss-sauce” before misgendering him by asking, “Where is she?”

But perhaps Biden’s most notable nod to Boston during the speech was the heartfelt tribute he gave to the Kennedy family.

Biden addressed Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy and the current U.S. Ambassador to Australia, when he spoke about former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s battle with brain cancer, as well as his son Beau Biden’s struggle against the same disease.


“Caroline, I couldn’t be here and not talk about your uncle Teddy. He was one of my dearest friends,” Biden said.

“One of the things that brings us close is family and the dread of cancer, that he and my Beau fought to the end and died months apart.”

Biden served with Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate for over 30 years. Kennedy died of a brain tumor in 2009, and Beau Biden died of the same in 2015.

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Biden went on to describe a letter Ted Kennedy’s wife wrote him after Beau died, in which she included a quote from Ted Kennedy’s father, Joe P. Kennedy Sr.

“Caroline, your grandfather wrote, and I quote: ‘When one of your loved ones goes out of your life, you think of what he might have done with a few more years, and you wonder what you’re going to do with the rest of yours,'” Biden said.

“‘Then, one day, because there is a world to be lived in, you find you are part of it, trying to accomplish something. Something he did not have time enough to do. And perhaps that is the reason for it all. I hope so.”

Biden continued on to say that this is what he and so many others are trying to do with his Cancer Moonshot initiative. They are “trying to live a life worthy of the loved ones they’ve lost and the loved ones they can still save,” he said.


Biden ended with a quote from President Kennedy, whose speech about putting a man on the moon was the inspiration for the Cancer Moonshot initiative.

“President Kennedy said on this day 60 years ago: ‘We set sail on this new sea because there is new, life-saving knowledge to be gained that must be used for progress of all people.'”


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