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tv   Discussion with Presidential Speechwriters  CSPAN  December 28, 2015 9:29am-11:02am EST

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c-span2. later a number of authors talk about their memoirs starting with former new times reporter judith miller. she's followed by gloria steinem, former white house press secretary dana perino, and a correspondent for the atlantic. that get started tonight at 8:30 p.m. eastern on c-span2. >> this discussion brings together several presidential speech writers ranging from nixon to the obama administration. people talk about stories from the time in the white house and what goes into writing presidential speeches. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon, everybody. my name is alesha sands. i am not a speechwriter. i'm deathly not a white house
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speechwriter, but in making a film about them. which is how i came to be a today. i made a film in 2006, seven, eight, about the obama campaign, and one of my favorite parts about the film is getting to spend time with the speechwriters. and when i met dick goodwin a aa screen for the family started telling me stories, and the stories were so rich and so colorful that i thought this would be a great subject for a documentary. ..
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and knows all these guys really well and knows where all the bodies are buried. so without further ado, i would like to introduce robert and you are in for a real treat. thank you. [applause] >> thank you for that wonderful introduction. i want to thank david murray the professional speech writers association for putting this panel on. i want to thank georgetown for hosting us. i want to thank c-span for preserving for posterity that will no doubt be great wisdom from this panel. so the space shuttle has blown up yet there has been a terrorist attack. there has been a mass shooting in the nation as the song goes turns its lonely eyes to the
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president. in the modern era, dating to at least december 7th, 1941, the president has not only been the commander-in-chief but the comforter in chief, the mortaring chief. the job description of the president in the modern era now includes express international outrage, expressing our national grief of good moments, expressing our national joy. and clarifying the meaning of what has happened and what the country goes forward from here so the nation turns to the president to whom does the president turn for help in stepping up to this unbidden moment. there is not yet as they say in app for that. so the president has to go old school and i mean really old school. george washington and his first term was thinking about maybe stepping down after terms in office so we asked james madison to help them read a farewell address. washington ended at serving two
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full terms, setting up the example for the people following him, but for your sign he dusted off the madison draft and asked alexander hamilton to take a look at it and make any suggestions, which i think instantly i'm sure no one here will take any offense gives george washington the greatest speech writing team effort. [laughter] that is until the trump administration, which i gather will have a bigger, classier speech writing team. [laughter] so presidents from the beginning have sought help occasionally. but it wasn't until the rise of mass communications that the speechwriter in the sense that we think of them became part of the presidential orbit. the first president is credited with having a full-time speechwriter was warren harding who speechwriter was a fella named justin wilbur and the surprise party was also the first radio president. and if mass media has evolved over the years from radio to
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television, live television to social media, so has the way the presidential speeches are prepared, so have the way they are received. and of course, so is the way of presidential speechwriters. so i'm very excited we been able to pull together a genuinely terrific panel. i said that not because i consider this people friends of mine. we have representatives from the nixon administration, breaking administration from bush 41, clinton, bush 43, obama. i was little disappointed we couldn't afford it harder so we could have gotten through more people on the stage this wouldn't qualify that the republican presidential debate. i will now go chronologically. i will ask everyone to speak for no more than five minutes and i will cut you off if i have to. i should say i forgot to bring a watch so if you see me checking my iphone, it is looking at time not because i'm fascinated by my latest e-mail or text message. speak for five minutes about how their president handled moments of national attention of this
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ilk and then we will have little intra- panel discussion and open up to questions. the first person sitting immediately to my left, my right from your head is lee huebner, deputy director in the nixon white house writing and research. he is now professor of media at george washington university. take it away. >> thank you so much. thanks to all who organized this conference and the association bringing into coherence what used to be more preferred tuning rather anonymous, ghostwriters come the white house goes -- "white house ghosts" is the name of robert spoke. students are flocking to speech writing. my own experience at george washington university at george washington university i just came from a speech writing class where i was assigned robert spoke among other things, but the students are lining up to get into courses. they regard this as an exciting professional prospect for them.
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i don't know quite how to make it work if there is no clear latter, but this afternoon attack to a couple people who have leads if we have any students who might -- you are that works to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. so it's a lot of fun. a lot of students learned about speechwriting on the west wing tv show. while that is a bit romanticized to me, i think it is a bit of an intriguing one. >> did they all look like rob lowe? [laughter] >> i wouldn't -- i am not a good fit for this panel and i didn't work directly on being crazy speeches come except in my deputy director role i would sometimes review what others have reduced. sometimes rescuing comments that might have, at a time of national emotion, gone in a
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wrong direction, not always been able to rescue them. and sometimes adding my own little touch of sometimes that help an alternate didn't. but one story i thought since we want to do this quickly that related to a big crisis speech happened in 1972. the one anecdote that quickly came to my mind, i have worked quite hard with a lot of people on the president's address to a joint session of the canadian empowerment going up to ottawa to address the parliament and a lot of people are taking a speech very seriously. it was a state occasion, but mysteriously in the last couple of days before the ottawa trip, the president them to disappear, got no reaction from him, no decisions and a couple policy point, often in the speeches he would leave the policy point a little bit open, waiting for the right beside her to make a
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commitment. peggy noonan once wrote that speeches were where policy got made. i think that was true. in this case, nixon was silent. and then i got something saying please add this to the draft it is a short paragraph about vietnam. what it was all about, it was worded in bureaucracy, even kissinger, kissinger always said that the verbs back in the middle of the sentence where they belong. so i did. i changed the wording i got a call i absolutely had to go to camp david because the president was really unhappy with the way the wording had been changed. well, cut to the chase, what was happening was nixon was deciding whether or not to mine the harbors and increased bombing of vietnam, a huge step back in a after. he was about to go to moscow. he had just been to china.
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everything was falling in place. the first arms control treaty was signed at the new era. and kissinger felt that nixon shouldn't do anything that ought to upset the russians soviets. and yet, mixing, the north vietnamese, anyway he was making the decision. he finally decided to go ahead and do this against kissinger's advice, one of his boldest decisions. eventually eight months later relayed to the american involvement in the time. this is what was preoccupied him as a crisis moment and he just did not tend to think about the canadian parliament. on the speech i ever wrote that could change the word. best speech he ever gave. [laughter] i had to go to camp david. in the end all he did was ask if i was having a good time. wasn't comfortable, did i want to go bowling. it was so nice. >> would not -- was that when you walked in and he was sitting in the dark?
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>> yeah, sitting in the dark pondering all of this. at any rate, years later the national archives and the director was showing me the nixon papers. and he said let's see what pops out. they just put bob haldeman, chief of staff diaries website. he put my name in and out pops the account of that woman when i changed the language i had a good speech. haldeman writes nixon absolutely blew up, went into a tirade about how the speechwriters don't understand the nuances of foreign policy. we have to get a speechwriter on the nsc staff to bring international sophistication and inherent haldeman wrote typical mixing tantrum. i think it reflected the tension of the moment. this language had been changed in some way and that is why
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nixon was so nice i think when i went into his cabin at camp david to make sure i was happy. i think he realized he had overs left. but the tension at those tension at this moment, maybe this place some way into the theme is terrific. for the tension that is shared and felt even though i didn't know at the time what was brewing and vietnam. nixon called the president's bluff effectively. the summit went on. it was overwhelmingly reelected and some other stuff happened that wasn't so happy. last night i was never asked to work on anything related to watergate. i think speechwriters were given a little bit of discretion as to what they were on, what they didn't, what they felt passionate about and what they didn't want to get involved in. that with the diversified staff and most presidents have had
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fairly diversified ratings. pat buchanan never wrote about foreign policy, but he wrote a lot of tough political speeches. he wrote about grand themes, state of the union addresses. bill safire was another senior writer. i was a junior writer. but the point of all of this i guess is i didn't get involved in that kind of speech. i asked. it's the atmosphere out of which such speeches came. i paid a lot of attention. i'm sure we'll hear some of the stories i remember from hearing other presidents. the other point in the end, especially nixon, the more important speech, the more likely he was to really write it himself. thank you. >> clark judge wrote for president reagan found a manager at the white house writers group, which is a republican oriented speechwriting crew.
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town. >> has everybody seen the cover of his book? hold it up. this is how i get on the good side of the moderator. [laughter] it's a great book. i read over the reagan chapter today, basically to make sure he didn't pop something on me that i didn't remember. in your introduction, you mentioned challenger written by peggy noonan. and one of the things i did was whenever your account. we talked about this the other day and i hadn't remembered it. and reagan coming in now, she realizes something is coming up that he would have to give a talk on television that night. she was the obvious go to person for that. she did largely ceremonial features, largely she was known at the time or make jokes at the time about being the one who always went to the funerals,
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wrote for the funerals. i she was working on it, one of the nsc senior staffers came over and had some notes from the president, had been that the president, as i recall, just during the disaster and the president had talked about the need to speak to children and to talk about the future and adventure required frontiers required sensitive and sure, but also a willingness to accept danger. if you read the speech you see that thing coming up right away. then you see it was written very fast. the next section is about i think it was sir francis drake had died on that day and talked about that clearly. i'm pretty sure what happened
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was one of the researchers came in with a list of things that have happened on that day that were appropriate to the moment. you have to work very fast. you have to fit them in. it is best known for its final line, split the surly bonds and touched the face of god. those at the beginning and end of a poem called flight that was written by a canadian pilot and the first world war. i remember some time ago when i was giving some talks overseas on speechwriting by a professor. he said on sunday night written, while the joubert tsao, did you think about it? no, you never do that. or at least i never did, with really the truly memorable things. there a few times to do that. when you write things that have humor in them. but mostly it is a moment where the sense comes to you.
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and this is where the artistry comes in or at least the impulse towards artistry. speechwriting is not about flowered work. it is not about ornate phrases. in fact, one of the early speeches i received back from reagan, he had crossed out every fifth or six words. he hadn't crossed out any sentence. he crossed out every fifth or sixth word and he had written at the top, no actually, he had written while [laughter] this is a fine speech. that is what he wrote. you're supposed to applaud. [applause] and then the guy pulls off the stage. but he had -- what he was saying was this is my style. it is very lean. it is not flowery.
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keep in mind what she did with that was the name on that capture that and ending with that quote is extremely powerful. it was all the more so and that's because the quality -- that is the kind of thing you are facing at the moment of crisis. some of it is direction. some of it is researchers him of it as inspiration. >> i should say not everyone is obligated to do impressions of their former boss, but it is certainly encouraged. our next speaker is the mary kate cary, speechwriter for president bush 41 as we progress chronologically. she was the executive producer of 41 on 41, which was about was 41 which aired on cnn. she still sometimes write speeches. she most importantly from my perspective is contributing editor at port.
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>> thank you. so i started writing for president bush when i was three years out of college. i was by far the youngest speechwriter in our office. so as a result, i got assigned not the big challenger crisis type speeches. i did a lot of spelling bee winners and girl scout of the year awards. there could've been a crisis if the turkey that god pardon somehow met his stake in a non-godly way. i never had the crisis. george bush 41 was the first president to pardon a thanksgiving turkey now is a great tradition that is moved on. you are always guaranteed to make the nightly news. [laughter] [inaudible] left back >> so by the end -- by january
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of 92, so i had been on the job for three years by then. i had sort of worked my way up from the spelling bee winners and i was on the trip were the president went to the state dinner in japan and had an unfortunate incident, shall we say, where he bars on the japanese prime minister at the state dinner. and i had written a speech by the next morning, which was for the japanese guy. i was not senior enough to be at the state dinner, so the kids my age were all back at the hotel and watching on television. once i got the word something happened returned on the tv unit is sort of like, probably not a politically correct thing today, the sort of like a dog killer movie the wrong way. the japanese lips are moving in english is coming out producer american bankers in atlanta the japanese was coming out. and so we couldn't understand what happened.
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so they were showing this god-awful film of the president and it really looked like he was dead. there was no words on the screen to know otherwise. so we set holy cow, i think the president is either dead or about to die tonight. the guys were all saying don't move, everybody say where you are. don't answer any phone calls, don't tack to anybody outside until you talk to me. about midnight i get a call from nick brady as the secretary of the treasury and a dear friend of president bush. he said i understand about the speech for tomorrow morning. can you meet with me right now. i said of course. so i go meet with them. he is absolutely shellshocked. he's a good friend of presidents. he thinks we all knew the president is maybe dead. he said i don't know what to do. i said well i think you should
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deliver the speech of the only question is, do you want to do it in the first person as if you were george bush and start the sentence that says i will not deliver the speech is george bush would have delivered it himself or do you want me to put it to the third person and will change your ascendant to george bush believes in free trade, george bush wants to do this, george bush wants to do that. and he said i don't know. i don't know what to do. what do you think? he could make a decision. i think he was genuinely emotional about the situation. finally i am looking at my clock and i am thinking i really don't want to have to rewrite this whole thing. [laughter] so i think it would be absolutely brilliant if you just moved it to the third person. and he said you're right, okay. so he kept up the morning. i am watching it on the closed-circuit and he starts -- he says i would not deliver the speech as if george bush were
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here. he says i george bush, and on he goes. every single time the man stopped to take a breath, whether it was an applause line or not, the japanese diet went nuts and just clapped like crazy as if they were going to applaud george bush back into good health. so we got out of there and nick brady says mary kay, that was bonkers. that was the greatest. it was very sweet that he was so excited. but i really think in hindsight, i knew at that minute. i shouldn't say was kind night. it was bright and that it is not about nick brady. it was not about this each eyebrow. it was about the gracious hospitality of the japanese people who are mortified that that happened to george bush. i think it was an act of love for george bush that these people were just trying to apply the never way to show the president that he was missed and
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loved and it was a very sweet moment in time. so my advice to speechwriter's is to some sort of misfortune befall your speaker, keep this reach the way it is. less work and it allows people to clap in memory of that person. [laughter] >> our next speaker is jeff shesol who was a speechwriter for president clinton. he's the author of several books including supreme power, franklin roosevelt versus the supreme court and founding partner of western writers, which is the democratic focus speechwriting group here in town. >> thanks. i hadn't really come for parrot to talk about this, but i just want to add a different and slightly less elevated perspective on the story just told. i was in college and president bush threw up on the prime minister. this isn't probably a revelation, but college students
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are usually pretty created in coming up with ways of describing throwing up. and so there was a moment in this incident when the term on campus for throwing up after an overindulgent night, frat parties was greeting the assault was. [laughter] i will use it in a sentence. ryan totally graded miyazawa all over the common room. we were very politically focused. [laughter] so i don't know if you'll forgive me from going from comedy to tragedy, but robert utah about the president in his role as comforter in chief.
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my president and president clinton is obviously well known as someone who famously said i feel your pain. we actually learned and coming in outcome you can fact check this but it wasn't actually president clinton who originated the phrase. it was actually president carter who first said i feel your pain. i think that president clinton is just probably that are added and some other presidents have been. it was a particular and actually a very important strength, easy to kind of have fun with, but really, really very important in all sorts of context that presidents are confronted with. i will just talk ruefully about one in which i was involved in and one that feels very fresh in this moment. this was the sort of horrific school shooting at columbine high school in littleton, colorado and my home state.
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that happened in april of 1999. i'm sure you all remember. it wasn't simply as one can say about a school shooting. it wasn't typical of other school shootings and that it had been meticulously, methodically planned and executed. so there was something about -- there had been a wave of school shootings beginning in earnest in 1997. there had been a to jordans borough, arkansas to springfield, arkansas on chad -- one of the shootings had been carried out by an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old. so there was a very active process of soul searching going in the country, very active discussion in the same way we have right now.
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and then there was columbine. this in the way was the moment when it all just sort of broke. peggy noonan wrote the column at the time talking about the culture of death that existed in the country and that some sort of critical mass had been reached. it really did feel that way very much. i worked with president clinton on a number of different speeches related to the horrible moment. i think it is useful actually to the rink about a moment like this, resulting in a single speech, but really a process in the discussion. as i went back into my files to see all of ours that's online in pdf form and this is not you already. you are next. i actually dug back into my own files to take a look at this. i think what struck me is just
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as there are phases of grief, there are phases of discussion like this and it begins in the moment with the reaction. the president usually gets to the podium as quickly as he can to say almost inevitably wears those trying to sort out the facts of whatever happened and we are talking to live person and end our hearts and prayers go out to the families. there's not much else to say at that moment, but it is a swirl of confucian as to actually went to place. the first phase is simply one of an immediate reaction. in fairly short order, you move really more to reflection. if there is a funeral service come in this case vice president gore actually attended the service in littleton with the families and gave essentially a homily, a eulogy and a homily all at once, very focused on
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scripture focused on scripture and an entirely different kind of speech really than the others that preceded and followed it. and then as this begins to receive comment on the begins to receive in the discussion of sports of action. are we going to do about this? is there anything to do about this? i think it was 10 days out of the event that this tragedy that president clinton went to the rose garden to talk about what the government can do about it, he announced that the white house was going to convene, it turned out about 10 days later with a white house strategy session on children of violence. there was lot about bands and pop culture, violence in videogames and whether there was anything short of stepping all over free speech that can be done about this. so that meeting was scheduled. and then, he and democrats in the senate initiated a series of
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reforms of gun legislation to close the gun show loophole and to require safety locks on all new guns that were sold and so forth. so that debate began ultimately like this debate almost inevitably as it was a fruitless debate in the end and nothing was done in that regard. and then moving a little further along the trajectory there is hopefully a time for healing. and so, precisely one month after the shootings, i went with the president to littleton for him to deliver his speech to the students to have been moved. they shut down the high school for the time being and that all the kids to another high school and he spoke to them in the auditorium there and met with the families before hand, which is some end that i would test from the very edge of the brim, not wanting in any way to intrude on this moment.
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.. >> thank you, jeff. up next to john mccullough, is currently writing, speech,
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writing speech for private client. >> first of all our moderator is not just an expert on presidentiapresidential speechw. he's the son of a presidential speechwriter, one of the best for come his father arthur who wrote for president kennedy and was a man we all admired and liked very much. a wonderful man. rob asked me to talk about crisis during the bush-cheney years but, of course, there were no crises during those years las.[laughter] i will talk about the quickest turnaround we ever had and that would be february 1, 2003, a saturday morning, and that was the day i got a call about 9:15, 9:30 saying that mission control had lost touch with our space shuttle columbia, and that the worst was feared and that we
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should prepare for presidential statement. so i worked as part of a team with mike garson and matthew scalia and we've been together since bush had been governor of texas. so we assembled, think we're all in mike's west wing office by 10:00. i don't know if i did when you exactly what had happened and exactly what the fate of the astronauts was, but it was as i said the worst was feared. so we got to work on a statement by the president or he was a camp david and it will bring him into it was kind of a misty, foggy day so they couldn't take him as would be the custom by helicopter. they hadn't taken by car. a motorcade from the mountains in maryland took quite a while. so we didn't see him for some time. we got riding at about 10:00 and we were told we had two hours. the speech draft had to be ready by new. we asked for another hour. 1:00, and that was refused.
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i've often said my model is not original to me but my mother is what is the alternative, there's no problem. [laughter] and also it's the case that shipped three writers working on this so you didn't have that intense pressure of being one person in a room under extreme conditions, and ms. having to get this out on your own -- timewise. we put our heads together. obviously, we didn't have a lot of space. we didn't hav have a lot of tim. the final speech ended up 375 words, and one great contribution came from karen hughes who was president bush's indispensable senior advisor in communications, and that was a verse from the old testament, i think from isaiah, talking about the creator who calls one by one and calls them by name which led
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into a very nice line for the president that the same creator who names all the stars knows the name of the seven souls we name today. we also learned in writing this, something that all speechwriters have experienced is that pressure, doesn't just concentrate your mind. it really clears the way any clutter in the writing. you can do something for two hours in a situation like that. it's not going to be a penniless quality, something you've been given a week to work on. there's just something about those kind of conditions where you don't have to strain for meaning. you don't have to find a way to enter this drama into what whatu are talking a. it's all there. we've also as a nation we have been what you for george w. for a while, and so at this point, february of '03 we were all of us in our fourth year of fighting for president bush
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you're there was something we knew instinctively, and that was that his speech to the nation which, did not just meditate on the tragedy but also announced the deaths of the astronauts, this speech wasn't about him and his speech did not use the personal pronoun, not once or president bush always like conveying his thoughts and he always lik liked to convey his feelings but he like to do so with words instead of simply announcing his frame of mind. he would like to convey actual feeling with his words. and that's an example of it. it's an instinct he kind of put into us. of course, we met with him briefly. everything was so compressed, as they say, we met with him briefly before he went live at 2:04. he put some touches on it. went into the speech, it was four minutes, al although progrs
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has. it was in the cabinet room, which was the first time a president ever address the nation from the cabinet room. no special meaning to that other than it was thought to be a good venue. and then as in the case with george w. bush, the event was over, we reconvene in the oval office just momentarily. and as always -- and as he always did, he said thanks, guys. >> thanks. finally, adam franklin was a speechwriter for president obama in his first term. he is vice president of external affairs. >> i was also assistant ted sorenson to a number of years on his memoirs which is probably the most impressive credential in this crowd. backing speeches in the white house is probably second to that. ted had the story about the cuban missile crisis where he was a member of the xcom which gathered during this crisis, and when he was asked to produce two
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speeches depending on how the missile crisis unfolded, one in the event of an invasion of cuba, the other if one was the blockade. he went to write his speeches and he could write the one about the invasion. he could only write the blockade one and he would tell that about showing at the decision-making process unfolded during the crisis and that played itself out many years later. as i was thinking about stories to share today, when the rate on bin laden happened several years back, i remember i was actually at home on my couch and got an alert on my blackberry saying the president was about to go deliver some remarks. i was like, i did note in the about in remarks citing of all the other speechwriters, does anybody know anything about this? we were all totally in the dark except then routes it was speechwriter upward to work on that speech ended in a part of
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the deliberations. he has a story about not being able to write that speech in advance the the, that he had sat down to write it in advance, started writing tonight, osama bin laden was killed in a raid. he said i can't write this, what if things go horribly wrong? so after the raid was successfully sort of crap the president. he said we've got to talk about his speech. you know, that's one kind of challenge, challenging circumstance by picking up on what jeff is saying i think it's a mark of just sort of his tragic gun violence is conscious that this president has had to speak on the topic so often. i want to write for president obama in 2007. a couple weeks after he announced his candidacy. i remember going to working on a speech then that he delivered in a church on the south side of
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the gun violence. and these speeches have, for anybody who speaks about this topic, and for the writers i think and work on these speeches, sort of a numbing familiarity and it's heartbreaking every time. so you try to make them as unique and distinct as possible, tell the story about the individuals whose lives were lost. because that's what, they are so tragically familiar. i remember what i would work a lot of a number of these speeches, these speeches company, when people were killed in gun violence or another kind of tragedy i would think about trying to get the people who are suffering were in the room, how would i talk to them? how would i want a president to talk to them? just a few o of the. you don't think about writing for the country. one story along those lines that
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was probably the earliest scientific of just how talented a writer president obama is was early on in the campaign in 2008. he went to speak on the 15th anniversary of the l.a. riots. and she didn't want pashtun he did what a speech. he just wants t the notes he wod reform. so as part of the research, found a certain "l.a. times" during the riots that was about a pregnant woman who had been shot in the belly, and she was rushed to the emergency room and it turned out the full and lodged itself in the fleshy part of her baby's arm. that baby was fine. and so this was the story, extraordinary story. i share this story with president obama, not not at all what he would do with this. and so i'm listening to this as, we had a link up so i was listening, no video but i got audio from the event while he
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was delivering remarks, and he we did this into a tapestry of the american experience, you know, and the violence of come in cities and across the country, and about how we have been shot but it's not a fatal room pashtun you won't. there will be a scar where the poll was take taken out. we've always had that scar. but he just we've in this beautiful metaphor for america and american society. and it just come he raised the standard for me and all the other speechwriters when i saw, when i heard that you and as always, i mean, one of the more, as a student of all the other speechwriters up here, one of the things that particularly fun and rewarding as a writer to work with president obama, he would check in not just on moments of national importance of bullets apart from stretched and tragedies.
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-- strategies and energy. he would get very involved and he just cared a lot about that it may not have been something that was a tragedy to get might not have been something of great political importance, issues of faith, of civil rights. he which is diving and work with you on. so it was a rewarding experience. >> great, thank you. go have a little intra- panel discussion and then we'll open up to questions. i guess since we're in a roomful of professional speech writers and aspiring professional speech writers, what advice would you give the to speechwriters who may encounter in life, whether it's working for a politician or working for a private businessperson, might encounter one of these moments where all right, you've got three hours, or you've got three days, but this is a huge, high leverage moment. what advice would you give? >> one of the better pieces of advice i got while i was, i
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wrote for vice president for two nephews before president reagan, i wrote for them for two and half years. in the course of that i was talking so much within, while i was with the vice president, who had been, who was writing for the governor. he said what we do is we keep files. we keep files on all the big issues, and part of this is keeping up. win you are working for a political executive, you're working on, you want to know what the edge of debate is completed edge of discussion is. whether it's on economic policy or where is the press go where is the opposition, where are your people, what is public opinion, where is the edge? and what are the arguments out there. you want to be well-versed and you want to have it at your fingertips. and, of course, with the president you have quite a few of these issues. but i made a point of doing that. i would save clippings from
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columns that made particularly put argument for that particularly could data into. i had stories, i would collect stories so that win, we're talking here about emergencies in a sense when you're in the white house come everything is an emergency. is never enough time. in another sense if you're well-prepared, what i was thinking about this, profession today, i was thinking well, you know, we pretty much have control of the agenda. so we always knew, very rarely something like challenge or something else would come up with a was a very much. we basically, we were driving the agenda and it was a back and a fourth, somebody would make a political run that as. like we were always prepared and we always knew, it was part of an ongoing, use the term
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discussion, ongoing debate in washington. by the what i would say that it feels like nothing comes of it when it doesn't go your way, but the whole point of a debate is that simply another it settles down to some decision. so it's not -- i'm saying this to comfort job. [laughter] but it's not fruitless. but many of them, in this you plan for as much as, you plan for all the major areas which you engaged in, or you're in part of the debate. and then wind surprises coming up much less distance to cover to deal with them. >> i agree with that, and i would just, i think in these moments of crisis, of various kinds, whether we're talking about the shuttle disaster or a shooting or any one of the
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number of other kinds of crises or disasters, what it is that the audience, and in this case a national audience, or if you're a ceo running a large enterprise, as a substantial audience as well. namibia public element or it may just be a very large global company, a global audience of employees and investors and so forth, that there is confusion in these moments. it is a very real confusion at first as to what happened. i talk about that a moment ago. but in a larger sense i think that what people are looking for in an -- even if they can't articulate it or wouldn't, is meaning, his understanding. and the president, the ceo or in windows in a substantial position like this is an authority figure. we don't always regard them that
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way, but they absolutely are. and i think that we look to the authority figures to help us understand, to help us connect at the very least so we can achieve our own understanding of what this means. certainly the president is not going to stand in a moment of tragedy and say to you this is what this means. in fact, a lot of the speeches that i reviewed when i think about this discussion acknowledge a very frankly that meaning is elusive. president clinton in these moments often quoted st. paul and seeing through dark and acknowledging that we will probably never will understand what drives human beings to do these acts, commit these acts of violence. but that we should hold on to our faith regardless. but i think that what you're looking for here, to the best you can manage it while
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recognizing that there are limits on this, is a clarifying moment. and at least to clarify the issues, to clarify the fundamentals. i think that's what we are all grappling with in these kinds of speeches, is to touch about, to acknowledge that, to get some direction at least to the way people themselves as they search their own souls, to connect them to what's really at stake. >> one thing i would say, just adding to that from a speechwriters perspective is that in moments like that it's important that you don't overwrite. as i mentioned, so much of what the speechwriter does, especially in the political world, is trying to give drama in force and special meaning to speeches you're doing when it's her 99th speech on federal education policy, or the latest announcement about what could happen at hud.
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you try to make it, you try to get it some extra meaning to make part of a larger story, eventually your job. but in his mode of crisis, these big, dramatic, tragic moments, a speech is not going to fail unless it's been overwritten. that's the kind of -- the moment requires plain english. >> and not overriding and also not saying the wrong thing. the case that comes into my mind as i hear this discussion after kent state which is probably the worst moment in the early part of the nixon administration. students go on the campuses of kent state by the national guard picnics and it just given his big rather hawkish speech about the cambodia incursion. that's the only foreign policy speech at buchanan did write. and his instruction from the
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president was don't show it to hendry, henry kissinger, who would've called it down. apathetic i do pluralizing effect. to make it worse for sticking out of the white house after the students were killed, speechwriting steps were would never see the don't ever check to get usually the rule was we would see all the words before they went out at least as a check. i don't know what the statement came from. somebody said somebody in the press office but it out and, of course, that a sense of the context can be, inflammatory and the phrase was something that went out in the president's name. maybe even wrote it, although i don't think so that go something like when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. that sounds okay except that seem to be blaming the victims, and it wasn't accompanied by other expressions of sympathy or regrets. and it just had a terrible
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effect on the nation's campuses. i don't think anybody does come to you? [inaudible] [laughter] spent i didn't write it. you were there. >> what happened the next it was that nixon went to the pentagon and agreed to a woman whose husband was in vietnam and i did sympathetically and i did sympathetically say to work, your husband is such a hero. they may of these bombs ring around the campuses blowing things up. and handed the microphone and that got played up for the wrong war at the wrong time can have a terrible effect. the father of one of the victims at kent state said famously, my daughter was not a bomb. adages polarized everything a long time i think for the nixon administration. it was a real turning point with the wrong words at the wrong time to get out. >> and it's not just on charges where one has to be careful about overriding.
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one of the lessons i learned as a speech like this at every speech is supposed to be the gettysburg address. you know, remember the stink of writing a speech for labor audience and the campaign in a way that i get really into this. there was right the. it was so as lofty as i can get. i remember getting a call from axelrod and it was clear that he just gotten a call from the president and so he begins by telling the story about he was report in chicago. there was a lesson. [laughter] there's a lesson that was about to come. he said i was reporter. i remember covering the opening of an airport in illinois, and i wrote this piece and i just thought it was the most pitiful piece one could read and write about the opening of an airport and i talked about planes, picturesque landscape to all the stuff. his editor called and said when does it open? what is the date was what airlines are going to be flying out? [laughter] silicon the message. it was a great advice and axe
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himself is a great writer. but that was an early lesson for me. you've got to write for the occasion. and if you don't you're going to miss the mark. >> when you are talking about your experience being in japan and in the information blackout and not knowing what was going on, it struck the that something like that happen today it would be the total opposite, information overload. people would be speculating about on twitter. reporters would between a god who were there. you wouldn't have to watch the japanese news. how has the social media transformation changed, do you think, how presidents communicate with the public at moments of great, a quick moment like this?
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>> i'll give one response here, which is, one of the things i really admire about president obama and one of the reasons i was drawn to him initially was that he sort of resist that temptation to plate into a lot of, you know, a 30-second soundbite at all this stuff. we get knocked for it. was a counterproductive at times? maybe your i really respected that the nsa writer that was the kind of person i wanted to work for, with somebody who was more concerned about telling the whole story, making the complete argument and less concerned about, you know, the other approach which, to quote the a to a governor who i was not made by oneself on his speech and he said i think speechwriters slinging soundbites together i told us toward your ted sorenson who toward your ted sorenson who like it so much you include in his book as an example of what not to do. but i think there is, one needs
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to be mindful of this. it's part of the commission shall. when your father was funny speeches, it was a very different deal. but not everybody is mindful of how speech can be conveyed in a certain media type of the speech but is of course thinking about that. i think it's important for a speechwriter to also think about the integrity of the speech. we think about just putting soundbites together and decided digestible nuggets can anyone which can which can be pulled out and sort of compiling into speech commute is something i think that the speeches integrity gets lost but maybe that's a good thing for the message you're trying to deliver that day but i do know but i don't think it is speechwriting at all. spent i have a somewhat similar view. i think too many speeches are just the speaker. i remember one time seeing a 30 give a talk and afterward i went up to the point and there was a
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list of soundbites. he had been given him by staff and one of his staffers that he said we taken this and he can awaits them into whatever he says. so i don't think that, but, a programmer i agree with you totally on that, but let me say something about the changing media five at the technology department. this is a big difference between what you been doing and what we did. in about a.d. eight, "the new republic" had a cover story about the changing soundbites. and it turned out that they had a name, someone had done it, somebody was sitting there timing the quotes from the speeches and presidential speeches during political campaigns. and i believe it was 1968, the typical clip of the speech that went on the evening news was 52 seconds.
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now, by the time we were, and this is not 1988, we were playing, it was down two and seven seconds. we have three networks to get through. if they didn't cover our stuff for the "new york times" or the "washington post," might as well not have been said. now, if you look at reagan's speeches, they are a coherent argument about the character of the country, its direction and the major challenges we were facing. but we also knew that we had to get through that seven seconds. and when you're well, i will say this that everyone will know, maybe you will, too, when you are writing speeches, at least i was unsure everyone else, i had layers of audiences in mind. i cared about what the audience in front of me, the president was saying. i cared about what the line of
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reporters back was thinking. i cared about what the editors were thinking. i cared about what the american people were thinking. and i cared about what audiences around the world were thinking. and all of them had to be collapsed into this one doctrine, right? very familiar, right? let me just finish. but i also, i knew that, at least for us, that the line in the back of the room, they were not particularly friendly. so it mattered that we understood what kind of come what kinds of things they like to quote, what kind of language can what kind of sentence structure. there are these things out in the tv business called good sound, and in the news business are called a good quote.
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and we made sure that we had one or two in. you do not want 10 of them in because you want to control the story. so we were under particular pressure to come up with one or two of those because we weren't going to get the 52 seconds. what is it like now? umn was the leader on this. one of the few times i will say good things about president obama. -- your main. that's a joke. no, on. [laughter] if you look at the 2008 campaign and his duel with hillary clinton, a battle of the primaries come week after week one or the other wins at its often alternates. this is the age of cable. what does that mean? when they come out, a good chunk of the speech, 10 to 15 minutes,
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will be covered. and then he'll cut off and get the same amount of time to the other side. she would come out and do what politicians have been doing since martin van buren, recognizing everybody in the audience and then getting to what she had to say. and that was about the time that they cut away because they were allowing for 15 minutes. he would come out and right into his message each time. and by the time he was through with his 15 minutes, he had got everything he needed to say to the country out, and i'm sure some place where he said nice things about the people there -- >> we thought about that and putting to acknowledge his there in the speech. >> the clinton people were not and you were literally a generation ahead of them. and now this is the last point i will make, your dad got up once and said what other new more memorable phrases? the answer to that was, people
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in the positions we had no longer have, we are now campaigns cover entire speeches. i'm sorry, television covers the entire speeches regularly. you know you've got 1 million people watching, or at least several hundred thousand every time you get up. and so there's much more, much less pressure to come up with that seven seconds. because you've got as much time as you want. >> just very quickly to sort of bridge the generations. clarke com, as you put it, the clinton white house, we were pretty smart phone, free twitter, we did have these clunky palm pilots come and get cell phones but nobody can if you put them together. at the same time we were getting very actively with and struggling with the fragmentation of immediate environment and the acceleration
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of the news cycle, and this is very much a topic of conversation internally and white house. this was a bit of the advent of msnbc, the advent of fox news, and the networks did not control the conversation to the extent that they did. the major newspapers didn't control the conversation to the extent that they did. other newspapers were disappearing. online was rising and so forth. so how do you deal with this? one of the things that was not at the time was that president clinton gave an awful lot of speeches. we ran our own internal analysis on this and we found that i will have the numbers a little off a pretty close come at a similar point in the presidency, so and not election year late in the presidency, harry truman gave 88 of speeches, president making these were on the order of 300, and president clinton gave 550. and statistics like that were wielded to suggest that
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president clinton was in discipline and love to get in front of a microphone and so forth, and this was kind of a trope in the media. and look, it's absolutely the case can anybody was watched bill clinton knows he loves to give a speech. is all speech. is awfully good at it with no help from any of us. but at the same time this was an acknowledgment of the demands on a modern president, that he is expected to be out there every day, enduring traits a time when the president has not been actively trying to drive the conversation, he has come into a lot of criticism. adam morgan was very well because you were there but during that summer when the debate was heating up over the affordable care act and president obama went relatively quiet because a lot of the negotiations that understands her happening behind the scenes, he was not looking to come look at things like giving a lot of speeches that would inflame the other side. the other side jumps into the
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breach. this was tea party summer, and so when the president by the get out there think of september of 2010, right after the summer vacation to give a big speech to kind of take control, is that when it was? that this was seen as a great acknowledgment that he'd been too quiet for too long. so presidents are expected to be seen and heard all the time. baltimore in a time of twitter. and so forth. so it creates on the part not only of persons but the ceos and university presidents and heads of foundations this feeling that if you are not tweeting once in our comfy to have something to say about everything, then you have created a vacuum that others are going to exploit. there's a danger in that, of course, as well, and that if you're commenting on everything, that you're spreading yourself are a fan and you're sacrificing
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the opportunity to least even if it's harder to realize today than it was when president reagan was in office, to control the conversation, as clark said. it is harder today than ever before to control at least for a president to control the conversation. you are too many lovers out there and -- leavers. after this i want to go to questions on august about microphones on your site in either i'll get you either i'll get if you to question either i'll get if you to question these two of them i could ever go to you quickly. >> president nixon advised i think would apply to those with industry. we wrote a speech before we sent it to him, he called him one day as i want you to do this. underlying in red a sentence or two or three, the paragraphs that you think is going to be delayed in tomorrow's paper. a sophisticated good journalist, what would they use? and the startling thing was that
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we would do that and we couldn't find it. we couldn't find one thing that summed up the message. so we started to write them ando not just a soundbite but that's a good, the summers of what we're doing to i think that's wonderful advice to writers. somewhere along the line crystallized everything in a few words. >> before you start writing, think of that since. how am i going to get from a to b.? >> went on with a client one of the things that ask is what one sends you want your audience to go away with speak with when i say this to young people, eisner uses a issue able to get on back of a matchbook. the problem is not have to explain what a matchbook is. [laughter] >> this is a great score people think your uncle if you speak up and ask questions, but -- here we are. >> probably directed at jeff shesol. i'm interested in knowing if president clinton had referred to his 1988 convention speech, what other great failures of the
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speech that he made it one of the most remarkable turnaround to become the president four years later. any comments on that spirit he did refer to it from time to time. i think as a different perspective on it, not that the speech was a great success. we have never argued that, but he walked up to with a long list of things that the dukakis people want him to discuss in that speech. so he had a set of obligations. and so that contributed to the length, and that was the fact that he wanted us to understand. [laughter] >> jeff, i can tell you something though. the summer of 1988, clinton is the third term governor of arkansas, third or fourth term, and i was in law school between years, and i was at my folks house in northern wisconsin watching that convention.
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and one of my pals i grew up with lived across town, and he called up during the clinton speech and he said, are you watching the future president? i said i sure do. it made both of our minds, this was an amazing talent. and judging on that speech we both thought he was presidential material. that's how we felt about it. >> thank you very much. >> pass it on. [laughter] >> thank you all for being here. one of the things that drives me as a speech that is the i want to affect how i want to drive out policy conversations, policy debates. can any of you speak to a time where you were down, you were behind in the polling, you didn't have the votes in congress to you're trying to get a policy done and the speech i made a series of speeches where you felt like you turned that
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around? >> well, modesty prevents us. [laughter] you've been your team, your speaker, your president. >> had used to talk about his company? the question with a speech in and of itself could redirect? >> ted used to talk about this and used to talk about how, tend to believe in the power, like few others, except present company excluded. he believed it had to be a confluence of the circumstance had to be right for a great speech to be delivered and to move people are i would say one circumstance that comes to mind is on health care. i worked on a speech to the american medical association when we were supposed to kick off the drive for health care reform for our member talking to dan pfeiffer who is a then the
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communications director, i forget what his title was back then, but dan said when history books about this administration are written we want the driver health reform to really to be seen to start with a speed which is not something to say to a speechwriter to make them feel very calm, just getting ready to invest. i remember the vision of that speech was let's put it all, let's explain this thing as well as we know how and really let out a policy. so we met with, calling everybody do it in particular the speech in the white house together from larry summers, peter orszag, all these folks, get their thoughts on this speech. it has a distinct which i'm not to clip out of of longest speech the president obama had given up until the point. and there were events in iran unfolding at that exact same time. and i remember the next day there was no coverage in the speech at all. and not only that, cbo it come
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out with a study that muddied the water and his whole speech that we were come with a would help sort of frame the debate, explain what was at stake. so it's not exactly an example of where we turned it but how events can sort of foil the good players. >> clark and then mary kate real quick. >> go ahead. >> the example i can think of from the bush administration is you may recall in 1988 convention address, there was that one line about 1000 points of light across the night sky. it made it into his inaugural address. peggy noonan was response of for both of those. once got into office the idea of the points of light which start out as every sort of nice idea that people that would come to nothing, grew and grew. there was one particular
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sentence that had to be in every speech that had anything to do with the subject of which is from now on in america any definition of a successful life must include service to others. and george bush, his last speech as he left office, he said we can talk about the treaties, the legislation, the end of the cold war, all sorts of things that happened during my administration. the thing i most want to be remembered for is the point like a and now i will go and become one myself. when i was that age, community service was something that the juvenile justice system imposed on people as a punishment. so nowadays i think there's been a complete seachange in the idea of community service and volunteerism movement across this country has now spread overseas. i think there are a lot of reasons for that but i do think george bush deserves credit for that i think he threw his record over the years, cause a cultural
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change in the way people view of volunteerism and it's been a great, great thing for our country. >> it's sort of a note of these things what's been said. and 88, vice president bush was quite a bit behind in the polls coming out of the democratic convention. several weeks before i had written a speech. i do not often talk about my speeches but i will say this just to give an example. i had written a speech in which, the beginning of the democratic convention about a week before, about, or maybe two weeks. know, turning the platform process. ted sorenson had said well, they're not going to be able to paint those things liberals. will be short in the land about the platform they were drafting. so i wrote a speech for the president which had a line in it that, sorry, the democrats have
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put on their political trench coats and sunglasses, wrapped the platform in a brown paper wrapper and will never ever whispered the l. word again. if remember that campaign later, the l. word became -- but it didn't in that speech because anything in iran on the date it was delivered would, the night before we had shot down an airbus by accident. and so of course no presidential speech was going to get coverage that day. but it came to the democratic convention, and we went dark all through the convention. we did not, i don't think you all did what the vice president did. >> something you would never get away with now, not responding. >> we really have teams at the democratic convention. the president wasn't on the -- and i can't the assignment to
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write this but i get the assignment to write the presidential weekly address. conventions and on thursday, and i decided we have lost but this was the right moment. you talked about moment. it was okay, it might as well never have been sent to if it doesn't appear infinite times, it was never said, or the network news. and so i recycled and it defined the election. we started driving the l. word as a term. finally, after we tormented, well, by the time the convention came, the vice president was in campaign because he was out of money between the two conventions, but we were out there all the time and we drove in we drove and we drove the l. word, and we were back even with them, with dukakis. and afterwards, police on our team the president's team, we drove and we drove and we drove the truck and finally dukakis got so frustrated with it he
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said, well, he's been trying to say welcome he's been dodging when he was a little. he said, well, i am a liberal and the start of harry truman, nobody heard the rest. and that is about. that's how you can turn it on something but it's not just the right phrase but it's also the right moment and then keeping at it spent we are bumping up against the time. let's see if we can get a couple of quick spin the poet richard wilbur wants give a graduation address called the speech indiscriminate use of the function of ceremony was to enable people to respond to great events in their lives by giving inappropriate emotion get what you say that's the beauty of oppression of the great events in our national life? >> yes. [laughter] >> good answer. >> my question is what is your advice on how you approach using humor when matters of diplomacy
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and decorum have to be factored in so that you can come up with something that is still fun despite the fact that it's also appropriate? >> i got pulled into a lot of humor speeches. the one rule i would say across the board is it's very, very tricky to use humor in the situation where there will be people in the hottest weather marks are translated. so you tend to not humor at, say, and international toast overseas for something because there's so many pitfalls within the translation. that's one rule is keep it straight when you're in a language situation. but second, first of all, we had a guy which i'm sure there are still plenty of these guys floating around, who was a freelance joke writer enrique particularly on malibu beach in california with a fax machine and he would just facts in these jokes.
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antistate every facts. and i still have the it's a file i call joke file. they are all formula jokes. he would just change the nature to a lot of them back then in the '80s were about donald trump what i should pull it back out again. [laughter] because he was getting divorced at the time so there all these jokes about that. so don't be afraid to take formula jokes and just change the words, change the names to the current crowd. but second, at the white house you can't just deal from, back in those days carson and leno and letterman out in several different crowds but you can't just take stuff off the tv and do it, especially these bills -- days. what i learned is the essence of a joke is to ideas being put together that had nothing to do with each other. and that is the surprise because the laughter. so we would do for the big white house correspondents dinners and graydon and all those if we
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would have the researchers come up with lists of all the current stuff, like top movies, top songs fro, celebrity train wrec, whatever. and then we would call in all these funny people, whether they were professionally associate with us or not and will put a big bottle of scotch in the middle of the table. visit the sasquatch at night, not at lunch or something. >> sure, mary kate. >> in those days it would be like something with michael jackson and the speaker of the house, or whatever. you come up with these funny things. 95% of it completely unusable by the president. we were particularly constraint because george bush did not like humor that belittled other people or insulted people or in any way make fun, especially of his political opponents. i think that was a great credit to the reason why he got so much done in a bipartisan way.
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because he did not stoop to insulting his political opponents. so we were left with jokes about broccoli, millie the dog. you note, educate make fun of state you can't make new jersey jokes, west virginia jokes,come into not that. so the list gets smaller and smaller and the pile on the floor gets bigger and bigger of all the stuff you can't use. but it was great fun and it really makes you appreciate the people who have to stand up every night and doing comedy monologue. president bush used to say the american people did not elect me to be a stand up comic, wide web to do this? but original comment upon but really difficult. >> i gather, we are the last thing -- one oh do is ask and we are two people who want to ask questions. ask you, package them together. we will throw it out and then will all go to the reception. >> i'm an undergrad here and
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maybe speechwriting advisory group and i think this is a more general speechwriting question. are there any crutches that you see used a lot in speechwriting perhaps specific to presidential administrations? and then do you guys have any pet peeves? let's give the other question and then we can tackle them both. >> my question is if you're in a position that is so much pressure all the time, you spoke earlier when you might make a mistake and the american public take something that you wrote in a direction you would not intended, how would you deal with the disappointment or is there anyway, our strategy to discover pop back up and get right back into it after you've been beaten down? >> the questions are questions that i know you do -- on what you have a crush. >> you just get used to some of this stuff. i wrote a speech that, on education, woke up the next day
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to a david brooks column titled a speech about nothing. [laughter] you know, there are plenty of other speeches where you just, you would write this thing, deliver it and just get hammered on the news. so you sort of, it comes with the territory. disappointment, acceleration, just part of the deal. >> a way to avoid awful things like that happen are, the president was going to a drug summit in colombia i think it was, very dangerous the first half of the speech was on reducing supply. second half of the speech was on reducing demand. and the guy who wrote it had this habit which was a great habit of walking the hall and reading the speech out loud in order to catch some twisters, you know, problems. mary kate, we walked him home with me and listen to my speech and see if there's anything in there? sure. it through the supply part. segue since between the two was, and big busts are not enough
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last night and he keeps -- not enough. [laughter] and he keeps on going. wait, back up. i don't think that's a good segue since there, mark. but if he had not read out loud, he never would've caught him or i never would've caught it. i just think you've got to do stuff like that to avoid it falls. i didn't second come to your question about pet peeves, the one that i think is adding fuel to visit us on polarization in the country is when politicians say there are those who say blah, blah, blah, and they mischaracterize the other side in sort of a strawman way, and then promote their own side. and i think it would be more intellectually honest and more informative to actually correctly summarized the other side so that your arguments against it are stronger because they are more intellectually
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coherent. so that's my pet peeves. there are those who say spirit bears are those is a mary kate was wrong. >> mary kate is wrong. but i will say -- [laughter] that there are degrees of this sort of thing. probably the worst thing that can happen when you're writing the speeches and give us have told me stories is when you work really hard on something and it just gets ignored. it's either upended by events or it's just frankly not interesting enough for anybody to bother covering it. and certainly a lot of things the president says this case the notice of the nation, especially when they're saying a lot of things. so frankly you're mostly happy to get attention and we're always although india one another when we do. i have been on the job a couple weeks when i was are involved in a speech for president clinton, and one of the jokes i wrote for the white house correspondents' dinner in early 1998, elicited a very angry maureen dowd column a
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couple of days later in which she took great public offense at a joke i had written in. i was not wounded but actually delighted. [laughter] i'm being honest. i would say that sometimes this need i think we're speeches to get noticed reached a kind of extreme that might be a little unfortunate. after president bush delivered his axis of evil line and this elicited a kind of stronger reaction in iran that my joke listed in the maureen dowd column, one of my colleagues called the up and he said, one of my clinton white house colleagues coming up he said, you know, nothing you ever wrote got a million people out in the streets of tehran. [laughter] so you know, you can help. [laughter] -- hope. i just want to more safely say
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this briefly to circle back to i think a larger point that adam was touching on about the power of the speeches, either come in response to your question about power of the speeches to either change or not change public opinion. i think we all recognize, all of us who labored on speech is not only for president but all the folks with britain in the years since, i think we all recognize that a speech is not a work of alchemy, at the moment it is uttered it transforms reality in some fundamental way. to our landmark speeches they become a kind of pivot point in history for one reason or another or in a campaign that i think back to the reverend wright speech, so-called -- by then senator obama gave in the next campaign. that was a defining moment in the campaign. if he had not hit it right it may depend into that campaign. so certainly a single speech to make a tremendous difference in all kinds of ways. for the most part, and there's a whole school of thought actually
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i should say that maybe some of you are familiar with. there's a growing school of thought that speeches don't matter at all. or if they matter it's in the wrong way. when presidents speak they can only polarize, he can only deliver counterproductive speeches because as soon as they state an opinion on it, or own supporters are pinned into a particular set of ideas come and opposition is inflamed. there's a political scientist and i won't name it because i'm not going to give him any publicity here on c-span, who has produced a number of awards suggesting that the great works, the great speeches of history that we all think made a big difference didn't make a difference at all. is look at franklin roosevelt fireside chats and silica the approval ratings for either the president or the policy. he gave a speech and then the next day it didn't go to numbers, or move the numbers by single point. so the speeches did make any difference at all. i think the way to think about
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speeches in terms of the impact on public opinion is not as sort of an instantaneous work of alchemy, but an argument that is built over time and is sustained in a way that has a cumulative power. at the tent transform the discussion in ways that are not immediately apparent in any given folder it's not like flipping a switch. but presidents are in a truly unique position to help steer the national discussion in a certain direction. it's not always going to director kibble could have enormous influence, even today despite the fragmentation of the environment. >> but once in a while a speech generally move until. richard nixon saved his career with the checkers speech. a half hour public opinion was turned upside down. inside a majority speech seem to make a big impact. i just sight of those examples from my own memory. >> sometimes bill safire told
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about his pet peeve, resident nixon had this device he would use in speeches saying my staff told me to take the easy way. of course, i won't do that. and so sometimes bill would walk by the closed door of the oval office and say take the easy way, mr. president. [laughter] spent a great note of which two into. thank you all for taking the easy way and listening to this great panel. and most of all -- [applause] thank you all. a big round of applause for our wonderful panel. [applause] ..
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