A politician friend of mine got worked up enough to write me a longhand letter this week:
“I’m writing because my naiveté was crushed last evening. I said a few words at the adult education graduation ceremony at [educational institution redacted]. A pal, a fellow elected [official], gave a speech. It included a well-known quote from Ben Franklin about education being an investment that continually pays interest. I cringed at that because in this season of graduations it seems most speeches contain a quote from John Adams or Betsy Ross or Harry Truman and I wonder, ‘Really? You read those folks’ works?’ Anyway, afterwards the fellow told me, ‘A lady at the [host institution] wrote my speech.’
“David,” my pol pal beseeched me, “is this common, for the host organization to supply a speech to a dignitary to deliver? What do we call this, public-service lip-synching?”
I assured him that to my knowledge it was not a common practice, adding that wise speechwriters do offer to write for the host an introduction for their client, an offer the host usually gratefully accepts.
(The worst thing I’ve ever seen is a CEO get an award from a communication association for being a great communicator—and accept the award with a speech touting the importance of communication … written by one of the CEO’s communication staffers. That’s not lip-synching, that’s lip-service-synching!)
But host organizations writing words for dignitaries to mouth: That can only lead to boredom and worse.
Thankfully, we don’t see it too often, we certainly don’t endorse it.
Right, scribes? —DM