A speech writer's take on important speeches, and the craft of writing for an audience.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tonight, it matters
He has given, by the count I arrived at based on information posted on the White House Web site, 450 speeches since taking the oath of office. This does not include statements, press conferences, interviews or toasts.
My guess is, his remarks at the annual Easter egg roll probably weren’t extensive, considering the attention span of the intended audience. But many of those speeches were in depth policy talks.
It is said by any number of observers that President Obama’s first instinct when confronted by a problem is to give a speech. This is not intended as a compliment by said observers. This night however, before an audience crammed into the chamber of the House of Representatives, is different.
Tonight is President Obama’s first State of the Union speech, an occasion called for in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution: “He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;”
This speech is seen by many as a moment in which the President will attempt to turn around the slide in political fortunes of his party, his policy agenda in Congress, and ultimately his administration. Some are even starting to talk about President Obama as a one-term President. These people, of course, know nothing about politics. Three years is about a dozen lifetimes away in politics. There will be many successes to buoy the President between now and the next Presidential election, and many failures to deflate his administration. Of more immediate concern are the Congressional elections which are now just over nine months away, and which may prove a disaster for his party unless there is some significant change in public perception. This speech will try to change that perception.
A veteran writer, researcher and lecturer, with more than 25 years experience in politics, political communications, and public relations. I’ve studied speech writing at NYU, and authored a number of published articles on the practice of lobbying as well as topics in American history.
My lecture on the War of 1812: 1812 – Uncle Sam’s First War, is now a lecture in the New York Speakers in the Humanities bicentennial commemoration series.