A speech writer's take on important speeches, and the craft of writing for an audience.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I did not vote for President Obama. At the current rate of things, my disapproval will again be voiced at the ballot box in two years, just as I suspect many Members of Congress will endure an expression of collective disapproval in the 2010 election.
That said - I am a loyal American. If the President called tonight and asked me to meet him at the White House at Noon tomorrow, I will be knocking on the door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at 11:00 AM - latest. And if, while there, he asks me to draft a speech, he will get the best of which I am capable.
So, it is no surprise that Mort Zuckerman, a news media mogul who has no doubt had occasion to consult with several Presidents, and obviously had great hopes for the performance of this one, would lend his services to this President.
However, if so called upon, the President may also depend on my confidence. That is obviously not the case with Mr. Zuckerman.
Here is the transcript of this exchange with interviewer Neil Cavuto on Fox news this summer:
MZ: “Well, I voted for Obama, I helped write one of his speeches, we endorsed Obama ...”
NC: “Which speech?”
MZ: “Uh, uh, I’d rather not go into that for the moment.”
NC: “Did it get a lot of applause?”
MZ: “Not, not from the people I hoped it would.”
No one believes the President writes his own speeches. It was actually something of a minor scandal when it was first revealed the second President Roosevelt employed a speech writer, but we have come to accept the obvious. Simply put - a President’s time is far too valuable, to spend writing speeches.
The same can be said of most busy executives. Were I such an executive, even given my own facility with the speech writing process, someone else would be doing the writing and I would have a hand in the fine-tuning.
But there is a certain expectation of confidence that the President, or anyone else for whom the speechwriter is working, absolutely deserves. I think that expectation was not met in this case.
And as a personal note to Mort Zuckerman - from one speechwriter to another. It’s never a good idea to publicly embarrass the President of the United States.
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.