Opinion: Who Should Write Biden’s Farewell Address?

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters

This is definitely putting the cart before the hearse, but if—if—President Joe Biden were to withdraw from the 2024 race, his speech delivering the news would fly from his mic straight into the history books.

Like Washington’s Farewell Address, Biden’s speech would mark an extraordinary moment where a white-haired man stepped away from power for the good of the country. This patriotic speech would be studied in civics classes (you know, if U.S. schools still had civics classes.)

Biden could use the platform to reiterate the enormous threat to democracy posed by Day One Dictator Donald Trump and tear into the latest politically-motivated decrees from the John Roberts Six. Biden could speak to the accomplishments of his administration which include lowering unemployment rates, transitioning to green energy, and passing an actual infrastructure bill.

Finally, the speech is a perfect opportunity to restate the stakes of 2024, laying out the clear choice between the progress and safety offered by Democrats versus the cruelty and retribution promised by Trump.

It’s a big task, but The Daily Beast believes any of these seven writers would be up to it.

1.Nikki Glaser. Glaser was the breakout star of the recent Tom Brady roast and could supply Biden with devastating lines, like when she summed up Trump with, “…at least we now know the answer to the question, what if a bloated factory-farm pig corpse could grab your pussy?”

2. Jon Meacham. Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Meacham has written drafts of major Biden speeches and could capture the sweeping historical moment. He could crib from his 2018 bestseller The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels and passages like: “Fear feeds anxiety and produces anger; hope, particularly in a political sense, breeds optimism and feelings of well-being. Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. Fear casts its eyes warily, even shiftily, across the landscape; hope looks forward, toward the horizon… Fear divides; hope unifies.”

3. Alexandra Petri. Petri is a master of subtle sarcasm. In a recent column for The Washington Post, she channeled the Supreme Court justices ruminating on Monday’s ruling on presidential immunity: “‘Won’t this lead to overreach?’ you might wonder. But we have anticipated this! We are not providing the new executive with absolute immunity for all acts, but rather official acts only. And it is very easy to distinguish between official and unofficial acts! Official acts are acts that you do as president-king of the United States.”

4. Sherrilyn Ifill. Who better to state the stakes of this election than a civil rights lawyer and former President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund? Ifill’s social media feed is required reading for understanding the current dismantling of rights. As she recently posted, “Perhaps the most consequential & dangerous part of today’s decision for a potential Trump presidency. CJ Roberts casually announces the end of the independent DOJ. Cue the retaliatory federal prosecutions. My God.”

5. Aaron Sorkin. The creator of The West Wing knows how to write a soaring speech. Here’s President Matt Santos [Jimmy Smits] defending his party, “What did liberals do that was so offensive to the liberal party? I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things. Every one. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, ‘Liberal,’ as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor.”

6. Charles Dickens. As America flirts with revolution, A Tale of Two Cities offers a transcript for how a central character can take his leave with an eye toward legacy. As he approaches the guillotine, Sydney Carton offers this vision of a better future: “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out. . . . It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” [Note: Dickens is “tech unavail”]

7. Lin-Manuel Miranda The song “One Last Time” from Miranda’s musical Hamilton captures Washington’s humanity in his decision to step aside. The lyrics work perfectly for this moment, too. Washington begins by insisting, “I want to warn against partisan fighting… I wanna talk about what I have learned/The hard-won wisdom I have earned…”

Hamilton interrupts. “Mr. President, they will say you’re weak.”

“No,” responds Washington. “They will see we’re strong.”

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