"I had no inkling", Biden said, taking the podium after Obama awarded him the medal.
Biden is only the second sitting vice president to receive the award.
Biden thanked the president and spoke of how Obama stepped in to offer financial help when his late son, Beau, was fighting brain cancer and Biden was considering selling one of the family's homes to pay for treatment.
"It's an awesome thing that happened", he continued. "But I never fully expected that you would occupy the Bidens" heart from Hunter, Ashley, my sister, all of us. I knew how smart you were.
"Mr President, I am indebted to you".
Hear Mark Hamill read Donald Trump's Meryl Streep rant as the Joker
Although Streep did not name Trump, she made it clear she was upset and frustrated by his election win. Hamill called that first "NewJeersToast" Trumpster "quote #1". "She is a Hillary flunky who lost big".
A visibly emotional Joe Biden stood by as Mr Obama heaped praise on what he called the "best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people". "I am indebted to your family".
"So, Joe, for your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country, and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations, I'd like to ask the military aid to join us on stage".
Obama also bestowed the medal with an additional level of veneration, marking the first time he has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom With Distinction during his White House tenure. He joked with Biden about his now infamous "aviator" sunglasses and "bromance" the internet can't get enough of.
"For the final time as president, I am pleased to award our nation's highest civilian honor, the presidential medal of freedom", Obama said, as a shocked Biden turned away from the crowd momentarily while wiping away tears. "They feel like they know the person".