Boy with stutter to prez: How Biden's oratory represents his persona
President-elect Joe Biden is known to be obsessive about his speeches, making changes till the last minute. He spared no effort to make his all-important inaugural address memorable, with the help of his speechwriting team, led by Indian American Vinay Reddy
It is well-known in American political circles that there are few tasks that President-elect Joe Biden takes more seriously than his speeches. Perhaps, this is attributed to his struggles as a boy growing up with a stutter.
So, when it comes to this critical, page-turning inaugural address, there is a lot of pressure on the President-elect to pull out all the stops to hit the right mark. And, to rouse dispirited Americans, who are going through one of the tensest moments in their history, battling a never-ending pandemic and dealing with crises on multiple fronts.
While there is a process behind developing Biden’s speeches — in fact, there is a presidential department in the White House, known as the Office of Speechwriting, responsible for researching and writing the President’s speeches — working on Biden’s speeches is said to be particularly “gruelling”. He is known to obsessively revise his speeches till the last minute, cycling through multiple drafts, making changes till the very end. All of which has one long-time adviser jokingly suggesting a “support group for Biden speechwriters”.
But, there is ostensibly a method in this madness, as Biden has maintained a core team of loyal advisors around him, who have grown to know and understand his style and tone of voice.
Vinay Reddy leads Biden’s speechwriting team
It is interesting to note that over the years, Biden has grown comfortable with his chief speechwriter Vinay Reddy, an Indian American, and his senior advisor Mike Donilon. They have helped him “thread his narratives in a simple, grounded way,” say political journalists. And, it is this duo who have mostly helped him to shape the draft of the most important address of his political career.
An address, which is all set to go down in American history as being as memorable as the President speeches made during the Great Depression and the Civil War in the USA.
Vinay Reddy has been the speechwriter for the Biden-Harris campaign and previously served as chief speechwriter during Biden’s tenure as vice-president in Barack Obama’s second term, from 2013 to 2017. Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Reddy is the first-ever Indian American to be appointed as a presidential speech writer. An alumnus of the Ohio State University College of Law, Reddy has a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and has double-majored in political science and philosophy. His family reportedly hails from the village of Pothireddypeta in Telangana.
It is believed that Biden has also turned to Tony Blinken, his secretary of state-designate, and incoming chief-of-staff Ron Klain to help with this inaugural address. It is also expected that he would consult with close family members such as his sister Valerie Biden Owens and his wife Jill Biden.
Biden and his team will also confer with Jon Meacham, the presidential historian since the President-elect has been using the title of Meacham’s book, The Soul of America, throughout his presidential bid, including in his campaign slogan.
The importance of the inaugural address
According to The Wall Street Journal, Biden has been drafting his inaugural speech since the start of his presidential transition in November. The president’s inaugural address is not a routine, official event played out for Americans. And, it is not just a tradition laid down from the time the first President George Washington spoke of the “sacred fire of liberty” and “a new and free government” in his historic address at the dawn of a new nation in April 30, 1789.
The president’s address is meant to give a clue to what the nation can expect from the incoming administration. Sometimes, the speech is meant to persuade or raise concerns. . Sometimes, the words spoken by these presidents at the pulpit get imprinted for all time.
Like the time, in 1933, when F.D. Roosevelt told his countrymen during the Great Depression, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Or, in 1961, when John F Kennedy made that rousing call to his countrymen with these words, “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Jon Favreau had crafted Obama’s inaugural address in 2009, which was also hard-hitting, as he echoed Kennedy’s message by urging Americans to create a ‘new era of responsibility.’ And, reminded them with stirring words that they have duties to themselves, “duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”
Yes, now, we are all ears for those transformational words that Biden and his speechwriting team, will have come up with, aimed at largely healing and restoring a nation like America.