Chief White House Speechwriter Vinay Reddy is Main Architect of Biden’s State of the Union Address
- The Indian American is well-liked by his former colleagues including Sarada Peri, senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama.
With President Joe Biden’s State of the Union a few hours away, several reports have been focusing on not just the contents of his speech but the makings of it as well, preparations for which begin weeks in advance. The main architect of tonight’s speech, as well as most of the ones Biden gives, is Vinay Reddy, the chief White House speechwriter. He typically writes the first few drafts, after which the president’s inner circle assists him in the final preparations, a New York Times report recently revealed.
According to The Times report, last weekend, at Camp David, Reddy was part of the group that worked with Biden on the speech along with senior advisor Mike Donilon, political advisor Bruce Reed, senior advisor Anita Dunn and counselor Steven J. Ricchetti, as well as historian Jon Meacham, “who is called upon to add historical heft, usually toward the end of the proceedings.”
Several current and former officials told The Times that Reddy “is the aide who is tasked with writing early drafts, putting everybody’s thoughts down on paper and then writing a clear final draft that pleases everyone in the room.”
The 44-year-old Indian American was hired during Biden’s vice presidency. He went on to work for Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, before rejoining the Biden 2020 campaign. He is the first Asian American to serve as the White House director of speech writing.
He came into the limelight after Biden’s inaugural address for which he was praised for emphasizing the importance of democracy, peace, and unity in the midst of challenging times. Politico noted that “despite the challenges of his current job, Reddy has stuck with it about as long as any Biden speechwriter.”
Several Biden speechwriting veterans told the publication that “Reddy has excelled in the president’s orbit as much for his ability to manage his bosses’ moods and whims as for channeling his voice.” They have also pointed out “the quality of Reddy’s writing,” which they described as “tight, plainspoken and emotive,” the Politico report said.
Dylan Loewe, one of Biden’s chief speechwriters when he was vice president, told Politico that “Vinay has done it for longer than any of us.” He described Reddy as “an exceptional talent who can endure an exceptional amount.”
Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director who also worked with Reddy when Biden was vice president, told Politico that he is “fluent in Bidenese.” She said the president “charges people who write for him or communicate for him with ensuring that they’re never condescending to the reader or to the listener.” According to her, he “is just really good at just taking complicated policy concepts and distilling them into language that’s both easily understandable and simultaneously beautiful.”
But what sets Reddy apart, according to his former colleagues, is his ability to stay under the radar. They described Reddy as “someone who blends into the background, isn’t on Twitter and doesn’t seek the limelight.” In fact, he meets the rules often cited by colleagues he has worked with, including Indian American Sarada Peri, senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama. “The first rule of speechwriting: Don’t take credit. That’s the job. The president’s actual chief speechwriter isn’t even on social media,” Peri tweeted in January 2021. “The second rule of speechwriting: Don’t walk around spouting lines you’ve written for/with someone else, thereby forcing a situation where you’re compelled to reveal yourself. If you want to deliver your speeches, run for office.”
Founder of Peri Communications, Peri was special assistant to the president and senior speechwriter for Obama and worked on many of his addresses during his second term. In a 2017 interview with Chatelaine magazine, she said her favorite was the keynote Obama gave at the United State of Women Summit in 2016 in Washington D.C., which tackled why Americans need gender equality and what that actually looks like. The young Indian American started her career as an English teacher in New Orleans and is a Harvard Kennedy School grad.
Addressing attendees at the Ryerson Leadership Lab in Toronto in 2017, where she was a Visiting Global Fellow, Peri fondly recalled Obama’s presidency, his vision for the U.S., and how he used words to shape the story of the nation. She recalled the first time she “truly understood his unique oratory gift” at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Dinner in September 2014. She worked on the speech he delivered that night, and said it “veered off traditional course by opening with a frank discussion of civil rights in the US, and prompting Americans to continue this “never-ending project of perfecting the union.” She told the attendees that as a speechwriter, she never considered writing for a woman in a way that’s different from a man but was aware of the fact that it’s received differently.
Before joining the White House, she was a Principal at West Wing Writers, where she worked with corporate, political and nonprofit clients on speechwriting, speech delivery, op-eds, books, and message strategy. She was also a member of 2012, 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Convention speechwriting teams.
A recovering policy wonk, she worked on Capitol Hill as lead education and health care policy advisor to former Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). She graduated from Tufts University and holds a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School. She now writes speeches for a number of different clients. Although she’s not actively involved in what President Biden says, she believes in what her former boss believed in and shared with her audience at the Ryerson Leadership Lab in 2017. “Something that hasn’t changed is a democracy is still best run on the fuel of hope, not fear.”