Two presidential messages | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Two presidential messages

/ 05:15 AM November 14, 2020

When US president-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation for the first time Saturday night, Nov. 7, he delivered a stirring message of unity to try to soothe the painful divisiveness among Americans since the 2016 elections.

“Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” he said, calling for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to cooperate with each other.

From his home state of Delaware, Biden pledged to be a president who “seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, but a ‘United’ States.” And to his followers as well as the 70 million Americans who voted for President Trump’s reelection, he appealed to all to give each other a chance and put away the harsh rhetoric. He reminded his audience that they are not enemies but fellow Americans.

Biden rattled off his administration’s mandate: “to marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness; the forces of science and the forces of hope; to control the coronavirus; to build prosperity; to secure the family’s health care; to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism; to save the climate; to restore decency; to defend democracy and give everybody in America a fair shot.”

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He underlined his concern to stop the spread of the coronavirus, saying: “Our work begins with getting COVID under control… On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisers to help take the Biden-Harris COVID plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on January 20th, 2021.That plan will be built on bedrock science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy, and concern. I will spare no effort—or any commitment—to turn around this pandemic.”

The president-elect reiterated the need for national unity, saying he ran as a proud Democrat but will now be a president for all Americans who will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as for those who did. And realizing the nation is losing global respect, he said he believes America at its best is a beacon for the globe—“that America can be defined in one word: possibilities.” In America, he stressed, everyone should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.

Biden also spoke fondly about a hymn that means a lot to him. He said he hoped the hymn could provide some comfort to the more than 230,000 families who had lost a loved one to this terrible virus. The hymn goes: “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand.”

“And now, together—on eagle’s wings—we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do,” he declared. “With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with a love of country and a thirst for justice, let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united. A nation strengthened. A nation healed. The United States of America.”

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Such rousing words. And complete, coherent sentences, for a change.

In contrast, when Mr. Duterte was sworn in as president in a frugal noontime ceremony in Malacañang, he created an aura of anxiety and fear when he warned that he would be hard on crime, corruption, and drug addiction, even as he acknowledged that “there are those who… say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal.” Mr. Duterte said he would reinstate the death penalty and unleash law enforcement officials to battle criminals and illegal drug users on the streets. At one point in his campaign, Mr. Duterte had declared that so many “lawbreakers” would die during his first month in office that the fish in Manila Bay “will grow fat.”

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I don’t recall President Duterte appealing for national unity ever. Neither did he pledge to work for the 24 million Filipinos who did not vote for him (many more than the 16.6 million who did). But, if, according to Pulse Asia’s latest survey, 91 percent of Filipinos now approve of Mr. Duterte’s performance as president, then maybe he has done better than Joe Biden would ever do (no American president has ever achieved stratospheric 91-percent approval ratings) in his post-election messaging?

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Charlie A. Agatep is chair and CEO of Grupo Agatep, an integrated and independent marketing communications agency.

TAGS: Democrats, presidential elections, Republican, US elections, US polls, US president-elect Joe Biden

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