Crafting words that live forever

Staying up to watch Barack Obama’s inauguration, I was amused to see one PR consultant ask in the feed about who wrote his speech. Yes, it was a fine speech. Read it at Time.com, and I’m sure you’d agree.

What has always irked me in my past life as a journalist was poorly written speeches.

I wondered often who wrote them. Did they ever think that with each flubbed speech was a missed opportunity? Did anyone ever tutor them to write a speech properly, to understand the beauty and finesse afforded with finely crafted rhetoric?

Sadly, I doubt it.

Speechwriting is an art. It is the one chance for someone in public relations to write copy that might just stand the test of time, to compose prose the equivalent of a poet’s rhymes.

“Why should I bother spending so much effort for a speech for some product launch?”

Because every speech matters. Once you get used to writing mediocre speeches, it’s a habit that’s hard to break. But in Obama’s case, his speechwriter knew that this was his one chance for immortality. Quotes, as every politician knows, have a habit of sticking around. Forever.

3 Comments


  1. ·

    From what I heard, he writes his own speeches, especially considering the way he seems to deliver them; off the cuff.
    But whoever wrote his speeches deserve an award. It’s nothing short of beautiful.

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  2. Jay
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    Ah Geeq. Well said! One of my dreams is to be able to write such stuff that will stand the test of time. Ah, but that is the easy bit. The harder part is finding someone who can deliver it the way we see it being delivered! 😉 Obama’s speechwriter (if it wasn’t the President himself who penned his speech), has it good. No, that’s not the voice of envy you hear! *grins*

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  3. ·

    Naoko & Jay – No, Obama doesn’t write his own speeches. They have been raving on a LOT about his speech writers (plural) on TV here in Aussie and one in particular who is only 26 years old. They claim he [the 26 year old] is brilliant at writing speeches. I would assume that Obama has a say about the sort of thing which goes into his speeches, but he certainly doesn’t write them. (Let’s face it, he doesn’t have the time).
    Erna – I fell in love with rhetoric [dare I personify it] when I was in school. We studied it with some great speeches (such as Shakespeares Julius Caesar where Mark Antony delivers his ‘I come not to praise Caeser but to bury him’, Hitlers speech at Nurenburg about how all he wanted was peace, … piece of Poland, piece of France … how he held out his hand to England, but all they gave him was war. To other great speeches in history).
    Let’s face it, President “W” and his ‘we came to restore chaos to the region’ and other gaffs really doesn’t inspire confidence in the man … [Nor the fact that he was one of the auditors who signed off on Enron and Worldcom just before they filed for bankruptcy … wouldn’t want someone like that in charge of the US of A, it might fall into financial strife too!] 🙂

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