WASHINGTON (HPD) — Every time the president of the United States travels, a special bulletproof lectern travels with him. Lately, President Joe Biden has made it largely obsolete, preferring to use the handheld microphone instead.
From informal fundraisers to official statements on disaster response or inflation, Biden has taken to the handheld microphone more than a dozen times in recent months — even as he stands in front of fixed dual microphones in the presidential lectern.
Those who know him say the change makes Biden a more natural speaker, and he knows it.
There is an obvious change when he opts for the microphone. His shoulders relax. A smile lights up her face. He walks around the room, looking at the audience.
“There are two tricks to public speaking and neither is science,” said Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic adviser who is now the executive director of the Institute for Public Service and Policy at Georgetown University. “First, you have to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Second, you must be authentic. And the two correspond.”
Eillethee said one of Biden’s strengths is his authenticity — “whether you like his politics or not, he’s a real guy who sees himself that way. That’s because he feels more comfortable when he’s talking to people, rather than talking to people. Standing on a podium is stiff. It’s formal.”
The president, who has acknowledged his difficulties as a speaker and struggles to control a persistent stutter, often looks stiff when reading prepared remarks. As a candidate and now as president, he has eschewed traditional “teleprompters,” usually placed to one side of the lectern corner, preferring larger electronic prompters or television screens.
His public style is that of the common man, simple —even rustic—, connecting with the audience. He makes silly jokes, talks about his parents, his wife, his children, his many years of experience in government. But that sense of empathy and connection he cultivates in person often doesn’t come through at larger events, or streaming performances.
Carrying the microphone in your hand, in a way, is an effort to bridge that gap.
Aware of the power of theatrics, Biden has not completely abandoned the iconic presidential lectern. They have written copies of his statements, in case the teleprompter fails, and often a glass of water. But the attached microphones are usually off.
Now, when Biden’s aides place the leather folder with his written statements on the lectern, they also place the handheld microphone.