Blue Collar Joe's Speech Unpacked

Scoring President Biden’s First Speech to a Joint Session of Congress

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

Last night, on President Joe Biden’s 98th day in office, he delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress (not to be confused with a State of the Union which doesn’t happen in the first year).

In a country ravaged by a global pandemic, the economic impact of said pandemic, a constant state of gun violence, a racial reckoning, and more, he had a lot to accomplish last night.

Before the speech, I sat down to figure out what needs to be included in this speech to dub it a success. It’s only April 2021, but the midterm elections start now and consistent messaging will be crucial in achieving a Democratic victory in the House and Senate.

Biden’s Scorecard

  1. Tout His Accomplishments: This one should be easy. He’s done so much in less than 100 days and it is being seen in people's lives. If you’ve received a vaccine or a stimulus check, you can thank the administrations.
  2. Tie Policy to the American People: The GOP has been trying (in mostly vain) to paint Biden as a radical leftie bent on increasing your taxes (only if you’re a millionaire & a corporation!), ban meat (yes that’s a real controversy & an outright lie), and cancel your precious childhood books (also a lie)
  3. Explain Popular Policies: In just his 100 days, President Biden has unveiled two massive plans that would transform America for the 21st century. Elements in the American Jobs Plan and American Family Plan are insanely popular on their own. Biden needs to tie these popular policies to these large plans and ask the American people for help pressuring their congresspeople to pass these bills. In this, he accomplishes both brand building for the Democractic party and ties anything less to Senators not willing to meet him (aka the GOP and moderates Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema).
  4. Paint a Bright Picture of the Future: After over a year of being locked inside, Americans want to feel hopeful. Biden has the opportunity to use his rhetoric to excite the American people about the future. A hopeful nation that sees the progress that the president professes will only help his party in the midterms.
  5. Keep It Simple, Stupid: As the old saying goes, the best thing Biden could do is keep the messaging simple and clear. Unlike his predecessor who rambled for hours, a short speech will help Biden maintain clear messaging and reinforce his commitment to the American people.

Now, why is this so important? Our country is racked by deep polarization. But the interesting part of polling results shows that polarization primarily lives on the Republican side. Increasingly, the partisans are entrenched on their sides. When polled, Republicans stick with Republicans and Democrats stick with Democrats.

That means Biden and the Democrats have a narrow set to persuade: Swing Voters. But the good news is that this set of voters is grounded in reality. Independents react to certain issues and not an ideology. If the economy is good, they’re more likely to say it’s good no matter who’s in office.

So how did Joe Biden’s speech stack up?

Tallying the Scorecard

Love to see two powerful, smart women behind the President of the United States

Whew! Did Biden accomplish these goals and then some. To channel Stefan, this speech has everything! Jobs, bipartisanship, strong stance on China, education, healthcare, you name it.

Biden began his speech with, “Tonight, I come to talk about crisis and opportunity, about rebuilding a nation, revitalizing our democracy, and winning the future for America”

I won’t go through everything that Biden said, so here’s a snapshot of some key quotes:

  • On the American Jobs Plans: “a once in a generation investment in America itself”

    • “American Jobs Plan is a Blue Collar blueprint to build America.”  

  • On the Climate Crisis: “For too long, we’ve failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: jobs...jobs”

    • “There is simply no reason why the blades from wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburg instead of Beijing”

  • On eradicating cancer: “Let’s end cancer as we know it. It’s within our power to do it” Now, I’m not going to judge the success of the speech based on reactions from elected Republicans, but this was the only standing ovation of the night.
  • On Democracy: “He’s (China’s President Xi Jinping) deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others, autocrats, think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century, with autocracies, because it takes too long to get consensus. We need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and children.”
  • On Bipartisanship: “I applaud a group of Republican Senators who just put forth their own proposal. So let’s get to work.” “Doing nothing is not an option.”
  • On Diplomacy: “Our greatest strength is the power of our example, not just the example of our power”
  • On the Economy: “Trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and middle-out”
  • On Guns: “we’re not changing the constitution, we’re being reasonable”

I was skeptical of Biden as a candidate, but oh boy, Biden as a President is exactly what the country needs right now. He looked presidential up there.

If you agree, make sure Biden’s words are heard. We are a fragmented nation. No longer is the nation watching CBS News with Walter Cronkite live. Most Americans did not watch President Biden’s speech, but our individual actions can make sure that America knows what we can accomplish if Congress works with the President to get these things done. Spread and share his words.

“America is ready for a takeoff. Working again, dreaming again”
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Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist who’s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.

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