I keep tellin’ speechwriters to stop giving the president unsolicited public communication advice.
But giving the president solicited communication advice—well, that’s only patriotic.
And last week in the Executive Communication Report—you do subscribe to this free weekly godsend, do you not?—I asked executive communication pros whether they agreed with me that no speech can save President Obama’s term now. “Or if you were in the White House speechwriting office, would you be racking your brain right now for a speech or a series of them that would reset the presidential agenda?”
Two veteran corporate speechwriters weighed in—thoughtfully.
In my heart, I don’t want to believe it is too late for Obama to reset the agenda,” said Ron Kirkpatrick, national manager of executive and internal communications for Toyota National Motor Sales, in Los Angeles, Calif.
I’m not talking about a Carter-like speech where you accuse the American people of being empty. Rather kind of a soul-searching speech that helps remind all of us that America’s greatness comes from adversity and that we are a people who have historically pulled together and risen to the occasion. That we are some of the most creative, adaptable, responsible. determined creatures on earth and that have the power to make things better by setting our minds to moving forward and taking positive actions in our daily life. We are a nation of can-dos, not can-nots or will-nots.
He could tell simple stories of everyday Americans who have taken personal responsibility to make themselves better, their neighbors better and America better. I see it more as creating a “movement” where people play it forward rather than waiting to see what someone else might do. Enlist people into it.
We are some of the most generous people on earth, we believe are hearts are in the right place and we’re very innovative and enterprising. Let’s put that to work making America better. Take a stand, step forward, make something good happen and America will rise again.
Something like that. More than anything else, I think Americans want to be reminded that we are capable of doing great things and they need good examples they can follow.
A positive movement. even a small one has great power to overcome a lot of negative. That’s my two cents. Hope all is well with you.
“I would be racking my brain not around speeches, but actions and decisions he can take,” says Kathy Felong, director of strategic marketing for the office of the president and human resources at Erie Insurance Group, in Erie, Pa.
He inspired the heck out of people but the vision has not come to fruition (for many reasons, not all within his control). Words alone won’t do it at this point.
Following the credit default debacle, I heard many people (non-speechy, non-political types, both red and blue) more inclined to blame Congress for the stonewalling that reinforced the perception of political paralysis and contributed to the S&P downgrade. There was an opportunity there for Obama to do something dramatic—strong, swift decisive—to win the confidence of people.
A heartfelt response—sans prompter—to some unforeseen crisis may win Obama back some credibility as it did for W. But part of the reason it worked for W was that it was such a contrast to his non-eloquent normal. Barring either of those approaches—a dramatic action or leadership in the face of a national calamity—from a speechwriting perspective, I would start researching first-term presidents that overcame adversity to go on and do great things in the next term.
I would also look back at the “Yes we can” speeches and line out everything promised, and why it has failed, in order to understand it. Then I would have him remind people what that vision looks like and accept responsibility for the lack of results (without pointing blame anywhere else).
I would focus on stories of how long it can take for real change to take place (the history of civil rights offers some lessons), but he has to be humble, real and totally committed to persevering against the odds. “Change we can believe in” becomes “Change we still believe in.”
America-loving speechwriters, consider your opinion solicited.
What would you do, if President Obama’s communication director were you.