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Future first daughter Ashley Biden speaks out in first-ever TV interview

The incoming first daughter spoke about how her family's bond got them through tragedy and the election and what she plans to savor on Inauguration Day.
/ Source: TODAY

A day ahead of her father's inauguration, Ashley Biden shared in an exclusive interview on TODAY how the family's tight bond got them through tragic loss and a contentious presidential election.

Biden, 39, who is the only child of Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, spoke with another daughter of a president, TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager, about the thrill of learning her father would be the nation's 46th president.

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"After the excitement, I sat next to dad while he was on the phone, just grabbed his hand," Biden said.

Family has particularly meant everything to Biden since a tragic car crash in 1972 that claimed the lives of his first wife, Neilia, and his baby daughter, Naomi, while injuring his sons Beau and Hunter. The Bidens visited their graves in Delaware last month to mark the 48th anniversary since their deaths.

On Monday, Ashley Biden joined her father, President-elect Joe Biden, to pack boxes during the National Day of Service — volunteering in Philadelphia, two days before Inauguration Day. Demetrius Freeman / The Washington Post via Getty Images

"Dad is so empathetic and has the ability to recognize pain, to feel others' pain, and to comfort," Biden said. "It's also made family his number one. We have a rule still today that no matter where Dad is, no matter what meeting he's in, if one of the kids call, you have to get him out."

Three years after his first wife's death, Joe Biden met Jill. They got engaged two years later after he proposed for the fifth time and have been married for 43 years.

"Mom really keeps Dad grounded," Ashley Biden said. "She will always remind him to take out the trash. Even this morning, you know, make sure to wash your bowl. Dad loves his Raisin Bran in the morning, and she's like, 'Joe, wash that bowl, don't put it in the sink.'''

The family has also endured the loss of Beau Biden, a former attorney general of Delaware who died at 46 from brain cancer in 2015. Ashley Biden used to take him for his chemotherapy treatments every other week, spending time together that she called a "tragic privilege."

"He was such a fine man," she said. "He was such a man of integrity, but he also had a kind of fun, goofy side — a great sense of humor. I just miss just being with him, just in the same room saying nothing. He was 46 when he passed. Dad will be the 46th president."

She and her father felt Beau Biden's presence last year when Joe Biden's campaign was struggling before turning things around with a strong showing in the South Carolina primary. The father and daughter slipped into the back of a small community church, and through the speakers, they started to hear the hymn "On Eagle's Wings," which had always reminded Joe Biden of his son.

"Dad and I looked at each other, started bawling, hugged, and were like, 'This is Beau,''' Ashley Biden said. "And then I was like, 'Beau, did you have to raise us really that far up?'"

The former vice president's victory in South Carolina made him the front-runner to ultimately secure the Democratic nomination in what became a tense and ugly presidential race against incumbent President Donald Trump that featured a heated debate and mudslinging on social media.

"In those moments, we had each other," Ashley Biden said. "Yes, it hurts, right, but you also know the truth. It's like at the end of the day they may get it wrong, but at least I got it right, at least I know the real deal.

"I know, you know, the type of man my father is, and the woman my mother is and the man my brother is. The cruelty and the meanness, that’s why I don't have a social media account that's public. Part of it is also having boundaries for myself, because I believe in kindness, and I believe in the humanity of all of us."

That belief was challenged on Jan. 6 when a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building.

"I was deeply saddened that this was a place I grew up going as a child, as you did too," Ashley Biden told Jenna. "And a place where Dad has worked for over 30 years, a sacred place really, and to see what happened, really to see what was going on, I mean it was truly horrifying."

Ashley Biden says her mother, Jill Biden, has kept her father grounded over the course of their 43-year marriage. Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

President Trump has already announced he will not be attending the inauguration, making him the first president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to skip the swearing-in of his successor. First lady Melania Trump also will not be observing the traditional "tea and tour" visit with the incoming first lady.

Ashley Biden said her mother has not heard from Melania Trump.

"No, I don't think they're doing the traditional protocol, which is unfortunate, but I think we're all OK with it," she said.

Ashley Biden has spent years as a social worker and public advocate but said she will not have an official job in her father's administration.

"I will, however, hopefully use this platform to advocate for social justice, for mental health, to be involved in community development and revitalization," she said. "I do hope to bring awareness and education to some topics, subjects that are really important."

While Wednesday will be a different inauguration than any other in living memory, she plans on savoring every minute.

"I think I'm going to take in the moment and just be fully present," she said. "I know Beau-y will be there with us.

"He's so proud. He's so, so proud. He's so proud of Dad."