No one knows which of the presidential candidates will deliver a victory speech, and which will be conceding, but the two addresses will sound pretty much the same, former White House Chief Speechwriter Michael Waldman predicted at a Leverett House gathering last night.
"Their messages will be identical: reconciliation and the triumph over partisanship for the good of the country. The loser will just have to try for a semblance of sincerity," he said with a laugh.
Waldman, author of a new book about his experiences running the White House speechwriting operation from 1995 to 1999, said presidental addresses "are not just a string of sound bites, but the moment when politics and personality fuse to form policy."
Simplicity is key, he said, quoting a maxim from John F. Kennedy's speechwriter Theodore C. Sorensen: "never use two words where you can use one, and never use a two-syllable word where one will do." The speechwriter must write in the voice of the speech-giver, with a thorough understanding of his or her political position.
Waldman advised those interested in a speechwriting career to "drink in poetry and history, but learn real substance. Understand policy, and the writing skills will come. And start young--the all-nighters will be easier."
C-Span recorded the discussion, sponsored by the Institute of Politics as part of its "Pizza and Politics" series. It will air as part of the cable network's series on political authors.
Asked if she felt the television coverage had any effect on the content of the discussion, Jennifer A. O'Brien '02-'03 replied, "No, but I think it's interesting to publicize political events from Harvard when everyone thinks college students are apathetic about politics. It may help change perceptions."
Beginning with a description of modern speechwriting's origins (George Washington's Farewell Address was in fact written by Alexander Hamilton), Waldman stressed the importance of the president's "bully pulpit." From Harry Truman's 88 speeches a year, presidential loquaciousness has increased to Bill Clinton's 550 in 1999.
Former Clinton Speechwriter Will Become Fellow at IOP This FallFormer chief speechwriter for President Clinton Michael Waldman will become a fellow at the Institute of Politics (IOP) at the
IOP Fellows Boast Varied Career BackgroundsMany of the new fall 1999 Institute of Politics (IOP) Fellows decorated their office walls with photos of themselves meeting
Ozick Speaks at HillelWriter Cynthia Ozick read part of her essay "Who Owns Anne Frank?" at Harvard Hillel last night, criticizing the popular
Treasury Secretary Had Meteoric AscentWhen Lawrence H. Summers wakes up on Saturday, he'll be out of a job, his eight years on the Clinton
Shorenstein Center Names Spring FellowsThe Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy will introduce its spring fellows and visiting lecturers on
Crimson Tennis Team Places Second In ECAC Tournament at PrincetonIn its first competition under new coach Dave Fish and its only competition of the fall, the Harvard tennis team