What might a speech writer read into Biden’s victory speech? Here’s 5 take aways.
Reading the transcript of Biden’s speech is like enjoying a smoothie that wasn’t liquidized thoroughly and still has a lot of juicy fruit chunks in it: You kind of know it could be more wholesome overall, but you can’t help enjoy those sweeter bits.
I enjoyed Biden’s speech very much. Most significantly, I enjoyed its simplicity. “I sought this office to restore the soul of America. To rebuild the backbone of the nation – the middle class. To make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.” These are simple words. No hyperbole. “We cannot… relish life’s most precious moments – hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us – until we get this virus under control.” This one’s subtler than you might think – trust me — coronavirus + emotional verbiage doesn’t automatically evoke an emotional response. But here the surface-level communication is “we all want to go back to doing what we enjoy doing”. It shows Biden to be a pragmatist. But we can appreciate it for its obvious sentiments. Nice!
Keep it real
I felt the JOE in Biden’s reference to Democrat and Republican opposition.
“Let this grim era of demonisation in America begin to end – here and now. The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make. And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.” And “to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
Biden has dedicated 50 years to American politics. He took his oath as Senator when his two sons were in hospital after an accident that killed his first wife and daughter. Watch him deliver this part of the speech. The President-elect conveys the sentences above so convincingly, that he clearly took his speech writer aside and said – I want this to be in it. I can see that in his delivery and hear it in his words.
Say it and mean it
Copying is the best form of flattery. When you repost something you’re never adding to it. Even if you think you are. You’re riding someone’s wave by association. But, at national address level, you’ve got be pretty confident that if you reproduce something – you’re going to do it better. Fans are heralding Biden’s speech as bold even ballsy in its inclusiveness.
He said: “I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history. Democrats, Republicans and independents. Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American.”
Believe me… never trust a list unless you’re relying on it in a supermarket. Compare with Obama’s acceptance speech in Chicago 2008.“It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.” That’s just SO much better. Being inclusive is about the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. Not just the parts. Obama brings that out better.
Actions trump content
If 4 years of Trump in power have taught us anything it’s that actions appear to count more than facts. This is actually standard leadership prowess. Don’t say you’re going to do it. Tell them you’ve done it. Trump was all about doing what he said he’d do. Yeah, yeah – I know… but anyway. It might be (and I quote) time to “do away with the harsh rhetoric”, but other than the COVID task force – did Biden actually give Trump voters any of the leadership style that won the (former) president 70 million votes just a week ago? The speech didn’t refer to any plans. That’s no biggie. The occasion was wrong. But it was a missed opportunity to challenge expectations. Speech writers know, you shouldn’t write what you think people want to hear. But you should write what you think people will miss. It’s as significant.
A higher faith
Trust me – you read it here – religion, spirituality, faith. These are themes that are going to explode in content marketing. We’re big on “purpose”, “meaning” and “what matters” right now but this virus hasn’t just blurred the lines between digital and physical. It’s blurred the lines between this world and the next. Whatever that might be. Get ready to hear revivals in words like “faith”, “devotion,” “enlightenment” even “Godly”… there… I wrote it. Biden’s speech was different – it was loaded with references – because Biden is a highly religious man. But, in leadership and innovation taking a leap of faith without knowing what tomorrow brings is par for the course. Get ready for 2021 to be the year a higher faith becomes cool.
“The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season – a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.” Biden said. And he's right of course. And while the reference here to "healing" and earlier to "lowering the temperature" - makes Biden's choice of metaphor topical, he extends it gently to include political recovery - possibly the meaning he meant in the first place: "The battle" he said "is to restore decency, defend democracy and give everybody in this country a fair shot." Now that's yummier than a pineapple chunk.