US President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris looks on during a televised speech on the current economic and health crises,(REUTERS)
US President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris looks on during a televised speech on the current economic and health crises,(REUTERS)

Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for US

With the coronavirus raging, unemployment claims soaring and partisan divisions sharpening, Biden faces a fraught moment as he prepares to deliver a speech that aides say he wants to use to “call Americans to unity.”
PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 09:41 PM IST

President-elect Joe Biden will take the stage for his inaugural address at perhaps the most difficult starting point for a president since Franklin Roosevelt began his first term by assuring a nation scarred by the Great Depression that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

But memorable turns of phrase like Roosevelt's are more the exception than the rule when it comes to inaugural addresses.

Former President Barack Obama in his memoir noted that singer Aretha Franklin's showy hat and a glitch in Chief Justice John Roberts' administration of the oath of office got more attention than his speech in the days following the first Black president's address, delivered as the nation was mired in recession and a growing malaise over two intractable wars.

Now, with the coronavirus raging, unemployment claims soaring and partisan divisions sharpening, Biden faces a fraught moment as he prepares to deliver a speech that aides say he wants to use to “call Americans to unity.” “The situation he faces is absolutely brutal,” said Cody Keenan, who served as a chief speechwriter for Obama and assisted with his two inaugural addresses.

He added that Biden in many ways is ”the perfect president for the moment, because he is not hyperbolic, he's not a bomb thrower, he's surrounded himself with policy wonks who already have all these plans. I think what we are going to hear him talk about is 'Here's where we are, here's what we have to get done.' I think that's going to go a long way just to making people feel better."

With the current mood of the country, Biden's consistent focus on restoring “the soul of America” may be of greater value to the nation than any soaring oratory, in the view of some Democratic allies of the incoming president.

“It is entirely possible that this inaugural is one we remember for generations to come, because of the gravity of this moment” said David Litt, who served as an Obama speechwriter and wrote the comedic memoir, “Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years.” “But I also think it's possible that the signature speeches of the Biden administration come at less expected moments and that would be par for the course.”

The inaugural address is as much a celebration of the peaceful handover of power as it is a set piece for a new or reelected president to lay out a vision for the nation. In recent memory, inaugural addresses have followed a predictable structure: The nation has challenges but there is hope to solve the problems if the president's agenda is embraced.

One tradition dating back at least to Jimmy Carter's 1977 inaugural is for the incoming president to offer the nation's gratitude to the outgoing president — a moment of graciousness intended to put aside the strife of the political campaign and signal to Americans that it's time to come together as a nation.

President Donald Trump won't be there to hear it. He's already said he won't attend the inauguration — the first outgoing president to skip his successor's swearing-in since Andrew Johnson did not attend Ulysses S. Grant's inauguration in 1869.

Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, said there are still ways that Biden's speechwriting team can continue the tradition of honoring the peaceful transition of power by simply giving a nod to the past presidents and Vice President Mike Pence, who are expected to be at the Capitol for the address.

Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said during a recent event hosted by The Washington Post that the president-elect has been chipping away on the address through the entire transition — taking time every few days to write and rewrite his thoughts. His speechwriting team is led by longtime Biden collaborator Vinay Reddy.

More important than flowery oratory is substantively demonstrating how Biden will take steps to begin unifying a country that remains emotionally raw because of the pandemic and a divisive election cycle that culminated with the violent insurrection at the Capitol, Fleischer said.

“Don't dwell on today's difficulties. Focus on tomorrow's answers,” Fleischer advised. “Soaring oratory is just not Joe Biden. The effectiveness of his speech is going to be much more about what he says than how he says it.”

Edward Frantz, a presidential historian at the University of Indianapolis, said Biden's daunting moment has parallels to what Roosevelt faced in 1933 as he sought to rally support for his agenda, as well as to Rutherford B. Hayes, who delivered his inaugural address in 1877 after winning by a single Electoral College vote in an election in which he and his allies alleged fraud in several states.

In addition to pushing a message of unity for Americans, Biden should signal to the world that the United States will recalibrate after four years of Trump, Frantz said. That may be easier said than done, though.

“How do you talk about returning to new normal while also not seeming arrogant about the United States' position in the world — especially after what's transpired over the last four years of the Trump administration and also with what foreign observers watched in horror as the riots transpired,” Frantz said. “There really is no parallel to what Biden faces.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Harry and Meghan interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. (Reuters)
Harry and Meghan interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. (Reuters)

British minister says on Meghan interview: 'No place for racism in our society'

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:13 PM IST
  • Meghan, the wife of Prince Harry, accused Britain's royal family of raising concerns about how dark their son's skin might be and pushing her to the brink of suicide, in a tell-all television interview that will send shockwaves through the monarchy.
Close
Harry and Meghan are interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in this undated hand-out photo. (REUTERS)
Harry and Meghan are interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in this undated hand-out photo. (REUTERS)

Meghan, Harry say UK royals were worried ‘how dark’ their son Archie would be

By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Nadim Siraj
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:06 PM IST
In another revelation that underlines the former royal couple’s estranged relationship with Buckingham Palace, Harry and Meghan said they were financially cut off by the UK royal family
Close
With Biden now cruising to his first legislative victory less than two months after proposing his relief bill, economists have baked its effects into their forecasts for a stronger recovery in 2021.(AP Photo)
With Biden now cruising to his first legislative victory less than two months after proposing his relief bill, economists have baked its effects into their forecasts for a stronger recovery in 2021.(AP Photo)

Joe Biden’s giant stimulus to easily pass House, say Democrats

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:04 PM IST
Progressive House Democrats are already turning their attention to getting their proposals in a second budget reconciliation bill -- which allows for Senate approval by a simple majority.
Close
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, while speaking during a news conference in Hong Kong, China.(Bloomberg)
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, while speaking during a news conference in Hong Kong, China.(Bloomberg)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam 'fully welcomes' proposed electoral changes

AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:04 PM IST
  • Chinese authorities have said the draft decision before China's National People’s Congress would mean the largely pro-Beijing committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader would also choose a large part of the legislature to ensure that the city is run by “patriots.”
Close
A doctor looks at the vial before receiving a vaccine, as Vietnam starts its official rollout of AstraZeneca's coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine for health workers, at Hai Duong Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Hai Duong province, Vietnam,(Reuters)
A doctor looks at the vial before receiving a vaccine, as Vietnam starts its official rollout of AstraZeneca's coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine for health workers, at Hai Duong Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Hai Duong province, Vietnam,(Reuters)

Vietnam vaccinates Covid-19 front-liners with its 1st doses

AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:58 PM IST
  • The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year.
Close
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern(Reuters)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern(Reuters)

Royal interview unlikely to affect New Zealand

AP, Wellington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:58 PM IST
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked by a reporter whether the unflattering picture of the British royal family painted by Harry and Meghan had given her pause about New Zealand's constitutional ties to Britain.
Close
Pope Francis boards a plane upon concluding his visit to Iraq at Baghdad airport, Iraq, Monday, March 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)(AP)
Pope Francis boards a plane upon concluding his visit to Iraq at Baghdad airport, Iraq, Monday, March 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)(AP)

Pope leaves Iraq for Rome after historic whirlwind visit

AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:41 PM IST
As the pope's plane took off, Iraqi President Barham Salih was at hand on the tarmac, waving goodbye.
Close
Vials of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.(Bloomberg)
Vials of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.(Bloomberg)

Malaysia to buy more Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:39 PM IST
  • The Southeast Asian country last month embarked on a nationwide vaccination programme, targeting to inoculate 80% of its 32 million people by February 2022.
Close
A man rides a motorbike with a woman wearing a burqa sitting behind along a road in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province.(AFP)
A man rides a motorbike with a woman wearing a burqa sitting behind along a road in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province.(AFP)

As US mulls Afghan exit, activist sees long fight for women

AP, Kabul
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:46 PM IST
Under a 2020 deal between the Taliban and the Trump administration, all US troops are to leave Afghanistan by May 1. The Biden administration says it's reviewing the deal, suggesting it may not meet the deadline.
Close
First lady Jill Biden speaks while visiting a robotics lab as she tours Fort LeBoeuf Middle School in Waterford, Pa., Wednesday, March 3, 2021.(AP)
First lady Jill Biden speaks while visiting a robotics lab as she tours Fort LeBoeuf Middle School in Waterford, Pa., Wednesday, March 3, 2021.(AP)

Jill Biden sees teachable moment in the depths of a pandemic

AP, Waterford
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:27 PM IST
A teacher herself, Biden praised the small circle of parents, teachers and administrators for working together to help reopen Fort LeBoeuf.
Close
US President Joe Biden speaks about the American Rescue Plan and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses in response to coronavirus, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 22, 2021. (AFP/FILE)
US President Joe Biden speaks about the American Rescue Plan and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses in response to coronavirus, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 22, 2021. (AFP/FILE)

China tells Biden to reverse 'dangerous practice' on Taiwan

AP, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:26 PM IST
The claim to Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949, is an “insurmountable red line,” Wang Yi said at a news conference during the annual meeting of China’s ceremonial legislature.
Close
Shaukat Ali Kashmiri said UKPNP is opposed to the use of religion as a weapon and terrorism as a foreign policy tool.(AP File Photo)
Shaukat Ali Kashmiri said UKPNP is opposed to the use of religion as a weapon and terrorism as a foreign policy tool.(AP File Photo)

UKPNP Chairman says part of J-K illegally held by Pakistan since 1947

ANI, Geneva
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:14 PM IST
According to a UN resolution, Pakistan is obligated to ensure life, liberty, the dignity of the people of Pakistan-occupied and Gilgit Baltistan, the chairman said.
Close
Meghan Markle gives an interview to Oprah Winfrey in this undated handout photo.(VIA REUTERS)
Meghan Markle gives an interview to Oprah Winfrey in this undated handout photo.(VIA REUTERS)

'Realised soon royal family wouldn't protect me,' says Meghan Markle

AP, Montecito
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:56 AM IST
In their pre-taped interview on Sunday night, Meghan also said, when she was first pregnant with son Archie, there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born.”
Close
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 27, 2017 Britain's Prince Harry and his fianc�e US actress Meghan Markle pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in west London, following the announcement of their engagement. - Meghan Markle has experienced remarkable highs and lows during a tumultuous period in which she married into royalty and became a mother before souring on life in Britain and returning to the United States. The 39-year-old American former television actress shot to global stardom with her engagement to Prince Harry in 2017 and their fairytale wedding six months later. She gave birth to their son, Archie, in 2019. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)(AFP)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 27, 2017 Britain's Prince Harry and his fianc�e US actress Meghan Markle pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in west London, following the announcement of their engagement. - Meghan Markle has experienced remarkable highs and lows during a tumultuous period in which she married into royalty and became a mother before souring on life in Britain and returning to the United States. The 39-year-old American former television actress shot to global stardom with her engagement to Prince Harry in 2017 and their fairytale wedding six months later. She gave birth to their son, Archie, in 2019. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)(AFP)

It's a girl, Meghan Markle and Harry tell Oprah

AP, Montecito
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:09 AM IST
Harry said "to have a boy and then a girl, what more can you ask for? But now we've got our family. We've got the four of us and our two dogs."
Close
Intricacies during pregnancy connected to higher risk of death(Unsplash)
Intricacies during pregnancy connected to higher risk of death(Unsplash)

Women can be fired for pregnancy in 28 nations, says World Bank’s Reinhart

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 08:54 AM IST
The pandemic has contributed to an increase in violence against women and is reinforcing gender inequality in many countries, with women on average having roughly three-quarters of the legal rights of men, according to the World Bank.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP