28 August 2009

Joe Biden's moving tribute to Edward Kennedy

Of the all the tributes to Edward Kennedy I've heard over the past couple of days, the one that stood out for me came from Vice-president Joe Biden (full text HERE and full video HERE).

A bit long, maybe, but there were moments of genuine sincerity that could perhaps only have been said by someone who’d lost a wife and child in a road accident and knew from his own experience the importance of support from friends and relations when you’re struggling to come to terms with such trauma.

Interestingly, two of the most quoted passages from Biden’s speech came from the following short sequence – one was a simple piece of imagery - “he was kind of like an anchor” - and the other a reasserted contrast “it was never about him. It was always about you. It was never about him.”

There were other neat rhetorical flourishes as well, such as the opening three-part list in which the third item contrasted with the first two, another neat contrast and the anecdotes about Kennedy phoning him every day and arranging for doctors from Massachusetts to turn up out of the blue and about what Kennedy’s wife had said to him near the end (another contrast)

But, as I've so often said and written in the past, seeing a speaker exhibiting such technical skill in no way diminishes either the sincerity or the positive impact conveyed by his message.

I literally would not be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy,
(1) not figuratively,
(2) this is not hyperbole
(3) but literally.

He was there -- he stood with me when my wife and daughter were killed in an accident. He was on the phone with me literally every day in the hospital, my two children were attempting, and, God willing, God thankfully survived very serious injuries.

I'd turn around and there would be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me.

(A) You know, it's not just me that he affected like that.
(B) It's hundreds upon hundreds of people.

I was talking to Vicki this morning and she said - she said,

(A) “He was ready to go, Joe,
(B) “but we were not ready to let him go."

He's left a great void in our public life and a hole in the hearts of millions of Americans and hundreds of us who were affected by his personal touch throughout our lives.

People like me, who came to rely on him.

He was kind of like an anchor.

And unlike many important people in my 38 years I've had the privilege of knowing, the unique thing about Teddy was

(A) it was never about him.
(B) It was always about you.
(A) It was never about him.

The enduring challenge and importance of funeral orations
Gordon Brown's model example of how to express condolences

(And, on the rhetorical techniques mentioned here, type 'rhetoric' into the search box at the top of the page for similar examples from Barack Obama and other famous speakers).

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