President Eisenhower’s speechwriter, William B. Ewald, died Monday, at 89. Our rhetoric editor Neil Hrab was the last reporter to interview Ewald, for a Jan. 24 VSOTD.com piece. Ewald took a prosaic view of the speechwriter’s job.
“Why try to come up with some kind of clever wording suited to the speaker’s personality, when the speaker can do that himself, better than I can?” he told Hrab. “Facts must be the principal concern of speechwriters. To the extent that speechwriters deviate from that, their writing will suffer. … Supplying the facts and ensuring ‘accuracy’ won’t make the speechwriter a hero—but it will make the speechwriter useful. And in the end, that’s what counts—that the speaker values the speechwriter’s fidelity to accuracy.”