On the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden took to his podium to deliver a message to the American people: empathy and action will set the country on a path to recovery.
For Biden, the delivery, content and tone of his first prime-time address as president set an important precedent for public figures and organizations seeking words to make sense of the past year. One in three Americans knows someone who died from coronavirus, according to a recent Axios-Ipsos poll. The sense of loss—emotionally, economically, physically—has left many empty.
The president’s speech included a nod to the American novelist Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” about “being strong in all the broken places.” Biden called for unity during a time of immense suffering, showing that we are not all so different.
It’s a delicate balance to appropriately honor an anniversary, particularly one that unleashed so much pain and tragedy. March 11, 2020, will forever be remembered as the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. It also was the day many began adhering to stay-at-home orders.
What, if anything, can organizations add to this conversation? Is it appropriate for brands to deliver a message to audiences? Will they follow the empathetic lead of the president or misuse the moment with empty statements?
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