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tv   Book Discussion on Confessions of a Presidential Speechwriter  CSPAN  April 10, 2016 11:41am-12:01pm EDT

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but we are not a college or university so we cannot charge tuition and we are not a federal institution so we don't get federal funds unless it is a grant. so we have to be sel self-sustaining. about half of the budget comes from endowments and we raise the rest. so it is important to raise money and give us the ability to be the public institution we were created to be. we have about 120 full-time employees. our building was probably created for a quarter of that. we have space needs and a challenge is how to keep this growing collection here and just share it with the public. >> host: michael whitmore, is the director of the folger shakespeare library. on april 23ered, saturday, join booktv live from the folger
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theater covering the anniversary of shakespeare's death and taking your calls on shakespeare. that is saturday, april 23rd. >> this is booktv on c-span2. television for serious readers. tonight, steve olsen recalls the eru erup eruption of saint mary's. and then at 10, jillian thomas on the impact title 70 the 1964 civil rights act had on working women. and we wrap up with a report on how the welfare system has failed the poor. that happens tonight on c-span2, booktv. >> how did you get started in speech writing? >> guest: that is an amazing
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story. where -- i was a high school debater and debated in college and doubled my major into communication studies and never thought of speech writing but just taught speech. at the university of virginia i was asked to give a guest lecture at the university of north carolina chapel hill. i went down and gave my lecture at 10 o'clock in the morning. president ford was speaking on the campus at noon and we all decided to go over and hear him because how often do you get to hear a president live. the president gave a speech that wasn't very good. disorganized, ram disable -- rambling and my colleagues joked with me how can you be a republican and support someone
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who can not speak. so i mailed a critique of the speech to the house and a week later i got a call and was asked to come up and interview for a speech writing job that was open. they had checked me out with certain people they know that knew me in the debate world because i was a debate coach at the university of virginia. i came up and went through the interview and got the job. the first time i was writing a speech for anybody else was the president of the united states. my first speech writing gig. making a match between a speech writer and the client is something that happens after you are hired. some of the best speechwriters in the world didn't get along with their clients. it is when you find a match and you only learn that through the writing process. for example, john kennedy went through a number of speechwriters before a legislative aid from nebraska
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became his speechwriter. what happened with me, kind of hazing, i think. my first speech i was assigned was to write the president's speech for the southern baptist convention meeting in norfolk, virginia in 1976. so you had me writing for an episcopalian. we were writing against jimmy carter who was a born again and loved by the southern baptist and he spoke and brought the house down so it was a tough assign: went down to norfolk, the president got up with my speech which had gone through ten drafts. he was about a minute and 30 seconds into the the speech and int interbankru int interrupted by applause and was
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interrupted 15 more times for applause. the washington times said it was one of the best speeches he gave. so we were together as speechwriter and client and went on successfully from that point on. i think understand audience analysis is critical it giving a good speech. air stallt says the strategies used in the speech should come from the audience. i did advance work. i talked to southern baptist preachers. i think adapting to the audience was the first step. the second step thad that made the president comfortable is the organization of the speech. people only retain a third of what they hear. so you have to repeat yourself
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and tell people here is where we are now, here is where we are going, and now i am moving into my conclusion. it makes the audience and speaker feel comfortable. after we lost the presidency, i lined up a job at the university of alabama birmingham. while teaching there, the new head of the republican party came to me and said would you help me out? i have to sell republicanism to alabama. now alabama is a red state but was a blue state back then. i went to work for bill harris and we needed to raise money and asked republican big names come to in. conley and reagan said no. we asked george walker bush to come in and he said yes and spoke at a big civic center in
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birmingham which was the republican city at the time. we went to the civic center and i was sitting at a table and near me was his nerdy young man with blond hair and he said why don't you tell us what you think of george bush's speech and i said well, okay. i will do that. i took notes as bush spoke. then when the speech was done, the nerdy young man and turned to me and said what did you think? i said he is a nice young man and very bright but needs organization and sense of style. it is obvious that wasn't rehearsed and it needs to be. and he said my name is karl rove and i work for him. how would you like to meet him? i went up and shook hands with him and he invited me to houston to come meet him and his wife in january.
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i flew to houston in january and came to the house in a three-piece suit. very formal. mr. bush came to the door and in a t-shirt and said if you get out of that vest i will cook you breakfast. we went into the kitchen, he handed me coffee, and he is cooking me eggs. barbara bush comes in and looks at me and george and says that man is standing there with a cup of coffee and no saucer and we have the chinese delegation coming in. i said with all due respect i came to your door in a three-piece suit and i will not spill the coffee. she laughed, george laughed, and he hit it off and are friends. so i became a consulting writer during his campaign.
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we won the iowa caucus but lost in new hampshire and the battle went all the way until june before bush pulled out and reagan became the nominee and put bush on the ticket with him. then i continued to consult with vice president bush all that time and then into his next presidential run in 1988. the biggest challenge for me in writing speeches for george bush senior was he didn't like rehearsin rehearsing. he thought it was unmanly. i had to convince him reagan rehearsed and others did. when he rehearsed he was really good. wednesday night of the convention he gave a great speech and that helped him get on the ticket with reagan. reagan was watched and said i didn't know he could speak that well. it was because he rehearsed. >> we republicans want a leader
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to lead us to victory in the fall. the american people, regardless of party, want a winner in the white house after four years of jimmy carter's incompetent leadership. we have such a winner and his name is ronald reagan. >> every once in a while he would lapse into not rehearsing and the speech wouldn't go so well. the best speech in the world delivered badly is a speech. and sometimes a bad speech delivered well is a good one because of the delivery. so delivery is the bottom line when i work with clients. i deliver the speech to them before they look at it so they can hear and then look at it. they can see the rhythm and phrasing because that is important. when do you know when a speech
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doesn't work? it is usually pretty obvious. if i am lucky, it rarely happened for me, and i don't mean to brag, but my speeches went well because i monitored and made sure to rehearse with the client. when i was working with president ford, the representatives of boys nation came to the rose garden to give him an award. i had written a speech, put it on cards, he took it out and delivered it beautifully and everything went well. the next week the mormons came to give him a little statue reminiscent of the mormon pioneer statue in salt lake city. he went out and stumbled a little and i thought what happened? we were walking back from the rose garden to the oval office and i said mr. president, with all due respect, the boy's nation speech went terrific and what happened today?
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and he said they had a motion picture camera going and i said i don't think what -- i understand what the problem is. and he said the camera made him nervous. when we went to kansas city to get the acceptance of the nomination at the republican n convention we rehearsed in front of five cameras and kept going through the speech so by the time he got up to deliver it he had gotten over the camera shy and gave a great speech. >> tonight i can tell you straight away this nation is sound, this nation is secure, this nation is on the march to full economic recovery and a better quality of life for all americans! >> guest: the speech i wrote that received had most attention when was i was a consultant to governor pete wilson running for
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governor. he had a short campaign, lost his voice and we had trouble fundraising but the announcement was given in new york harbor. he talked about law and order, supporting police, and illegal immigration which is something he was trying to shutdown. the speech made the front page of "the new york times." there he is standing there with the statue of liberty behind it and i must say that is the best reaction i have had to any speeches i have written. i coordinated the bicentinial speeches and that won ford the race, i believe. by the time he finished those speeches ewere only 10 points behind and at the end of the
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acceptance speech in kansas city ford was only five points behind and after the first debate the raise was dead even. so you can make a difference with speeches that you deliver particular particularly during a presidential campaign. debates are difficult and we have far too many for speechwriters. i felt bad for senator marc rubio when he kept repeating a line that was the beginning of the unravelling of his campaign. you have people ignoring the speechwriters like donald trump. speechwriters would never write the things he has said like making fun of carly fiorina's
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face. there are exceptions. marc rubio has given good speeches on campaign days. hillary clinton went from 1996 and if you look at her victory speech after the south carolina primary that speech is well written, well rehearsed, and very well delivered. best speech i have seen her giving. >> instead of building walls we need to be tearing down barriers. we need to show by everything we do we really are in this together. >> guest: i know jeb bush called in people for help but it was too late.
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the debates are difficult and things can go wrong. when i was coaching ford, we won the first one and we were optimistic we would win. in the second debate we knew it was foreign policy, at the pats of the arts in san francisco, we knew the president was going to be asked about his policy of the soviet union and he said look, yu yugoslavi is independent, and then he was asked a follow-up -- >> did i understand you to say the russians are not using eastern europe as their own spear of influence and occupying most of the countries and making sure it is communist zone? where on our side of the line the italians and french --
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>> i don't think they consider themselves dommated by the soviet union and i don't believe the romanians considering themselves dominated by the soviet union or the polish. >> guest: immediately after the debate we said mr. president, you misspoke yourself and you will have to call a press conference immediately and explain what you meant. and the president said what did i say? and stew said you said the soviet union doesn't dominate poland and the president said i didn't say that. and he said what do you think? and he said i thought i said the soviet union doesn't dominate the polish people in their hearts and minds. and we played it back and he said, oh, my, i left that phrase off. we will hold a press conference and clear it up.
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henry kissenger came up and we explained what happened and kissinger said you cannot say that. it will insult the soviets and i am trying to get someone out of the soviet union. they debated it for five days and during those five days the election slipped away. people were reminded the president tripped and fell, he was made fun of my chevy chase on saturday night live. he became the mistake-prone president. he did correct the record five days later in california but it was too late. debates are dangerous and scary. speechwriters are very important to current campaigns. speechwriters are incredibly important in terms of getting the phrasing down so it means something. hillary says we should not be building walls but breaking down barriers and that is a beautiful phrase. you have up and down and literation of breaking down barriers.
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that is a well-turned phrase and becomes a campaign slogan with her saying it all of the time now. i think those are the kinds of things speechwriters can do for a campaign to give it cohesiveness. >> here is a look at upcoming book fare -- fairs and festivals. we are live for the los angeles times festival of book. visit our website for the full event schedule. on april 16th we are live from annapolis for the book festival. coming up in may in chicago look for our coverage of book expo america featuring hundreds of books and authors. and later in the month we are live from maryland for the 4th annual book festival featuring

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