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Judd Gregg: Biden-speak

Judd Gregg: Biden-speak
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The election is over but many problems that concern Americans are not.

The nation has gone through a glum period. The effects of the coronavirus are depressing our health and economy, and the divisiveness of our politics is just depressing.

President-elect Biden’s inaugural address is an opportunity to break through the bleakness of the time.

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It will be a chance for the new president, a seasoned politician, to set a tone that fits the unique strengths of our people and the vitality of our culture.

It will hopefully be short.

This will be a challenge for Biden. It is not intrinsic to his soul to be either concise or brief. He likes to speak. He uses a consciousness stream as his stylistic form. He can go on for a bit.

But what needs to be said does not require many words. Rather, it requires the expression of heart and leadership.

He might want to turn to our history, to words that went to the essence of who we are as a nation and how we project ourselves to the world; words that resonate across time.

After a period of so much disruption, dissent, anger and divisiveness, Biden might begin by returning to the language of Abraham Lincoln.

At Lincoln’s second inaugural, the nation was still engaged in the Civil War but its outcome was settled. The North would bring the South back into the Union. Even so, never up to that time, or since, had the nation been so torn to its roots.

Lincoln insisted that the tasks ahead would need to be addressed “with malice towards none; with charity for all.”

These were more than words. They cut to the core of what the nation needed — a healing, a timeout from anger and hate, and a return to civility.

All that Biden needs to do is reaffirm the purposes of Lincoln's words. He does not have to have a speechwriter rewrite them.

The words are so appropriate to what we need today as a country. They simply need to be renewed as a core cause of the Biden presidency.

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Those words would create a direction for his presidency, and they would be met with a smile and sigh of relief by the people he intends to lead.

Of course, Biden must also set out his policy goals in this critical talk to the world and the nation.

There is no need to ramble here.

The goals that the nation needs and the world wants were declared over 200 years ago. It should be Biden’s theme to continue their pursuit. After all, we, as a nation, have not yet fulfilled their promise.

They were written by Thomas Jefferson and set the tone for all our time as a people.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This simple creed has elevated our way of life ever since it was written. People across the world who seek to be free have looked to those words.

Biden’s speech does not need to go far beyond affirming our desire to return to, build on and better manifest the vision articulated by Jefferson.

If said well and precisely, such a speech would encapsulate his efforts to reinvigorate our people and give confidence to those farther afield who have looked to us as their source of hope.

There is nothing wrong with our nation that, if properly led, we cannot overcome and improve.

We remain a place where accomplishment, opportunity and improvement are at the center of our national credo. We drive toward the betterment of our people.

The words of Lincoln and Jefferson continue to define us.

All we need is a president who understands this, and can reaffirm it to the world and to ourselves.

We need a president committed to acting in a manner that moves us forward in pursuit of that goal.

Everyone should wish the new president good luck.

But it is not luck that will guide us.

It is an affirmation and reassertion of the principles that make America a special experiment — and leadership that acts on those principles.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.