Biden: “Rhetoric for Good”

When Joe biden’s speech writer Vinay Reddy sat down to write the inaugural address, he knew he needed a different kind of speech. Driven by the idea of using “rhetoric for good” he studied speeches (including a lot of Churchill) where words had been used in a positive content to unite people.

The speech that President Biden delivered exceeded expectations, and when you analyse it closely as I just did, it’s not hard to see why it worked.

Instead of just using clever rhetorical devices and the kind of ‘conflict’ you usually find in political speeches (“great speech but I can’t remember what he said”), Vinay used “but” 15 times to create subtle contrasts, and then “we” 80 times to appeal to civic ‘unity’ (the theme of the speech).

It’s still fair to say that on the day, 22-year old poet laureate Amanda Gorman stole the show with ‘The Hill We Climb’, but nevertheless, Wednesday was a shining example of how words and ideas really can change a nation.