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‘Hell of a speech’: Biden’s inaugural address praised by commentators

Oliver O'Connell
·3-min read
 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden’s inaugural speech lasted 21 minutes and has been widely praised for its dignified tone, and call for unity and respect.

Given in the traditional manner from the steps of the US Capitol, the address formed the centrepiece of a very different inauguration ceremony than the nation is used to due to both security threats and the coronavirus pandemic. There was no crowd thronging the National Mall.

Nevertheless, Mr Biden’s vow to be a “president for all Americans” and calls to “end this uncivil war that pits red against blue”, struck a chord with many commentators.

The Associated Press’ Julie Pace wrote: “Biden’s words felt less like rhetorical flourishes and more like an urgent appeal to stabilise a country reeling from a spiraling pandemic, economic uncertainty, racial tensions and a growing divide over truth versus lies.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss described it as “modest, austere, grave, calming, cleansing, inspiring”.

On Fox News, host Chris Wallace said: “I thought it was a great speech ... I thought this was the best inaugural address I have ever heard.”

“For the moment, this was a great speech,” said Karl Rove, former adviser to George W Bush, also on Fox. “It was him, the sense we can overcome challenges.”

NBC legal analyst and Obama administration US attorney Joyce Alene noted the frankness of the text: “No sugarcoating from Biden in this speech. Just a firm commitment, based on full awareness of the challenges we face, to unify the country.”

The president said in part of his speech: “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy, unity.”

Former White House press secretary Jay Carney said: “I am so proud of my former boss, @POTUS Joe Biden. That speech was true to who he is. He knows that unity is an elusive goal, even a ‘foolish fantasy’ to some, but he deeply believes — and has always believed — that we have to reach for it. And he will.”

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser and speechwriter in the Obama White House, tweeted: “That was a truly great speech made even bigger by the moment - one of the better inaugural addresses.”

Veteran journalist and news anchor Dan Rather was also full of praise: “This speech feels both grand and deeply intimate, a searching and yearning for the best of this nation, its heart and soul.”

“A man who overcame a stutter, gives a stirring inaugural addresses,” he continued. “A man whose life has been torn by tragedy, summons hope. Anything is possible.”

Mr Biden vowed to be straightforward with Americans, promising that he “will always level with you”, and also used inspirational language acknowledging the challenges the nation has been through and must still face in the coming years.

In a sharp jab at Donald Trump, Mr Rather added: “Oh right, that’s what a president is supposed to sound like.”

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