Shoes to fill, shoulders to stand on

Richard Goodwin belonged to a generation of speechwriters who didn't settle for being mere wordsmiths. They wanted, as Goodwin put it, to "move men to action and alliance."

One of our giants died Sunday.

As a speechwriter to JFK, RFK and LBJ, speechwriter Richard Goodwin coined "Great Society," skinny dipped in the White House pool with LBJ and got LBJ to say, "We Shall Overcome."

Goodwin confessed to "mingled arrogance, pride, excitement at authorship of words that had touched, might change, the nation."

"The pantheon of presidential speechwriters is really very small—and there is no question that Dick Goodwin belongs in it,” said former President Clinton speechwriter Jeff Shesol, praising Goodwin—as I recently did—as one of a few speechwriters “who contributed not only memorable lines, but ideas, arguments, an intellectual basis for presidential action. Words, for Goodwin, were never an end in themselves; they were an instrument, as he put it, to 'move men to action and alliance.’”

Big shoes to fill. Broad shoulders to stand on.

And for a dose of Goodwin’s wisdom on speechwriting, he gave a wise and puckishly fun speech 21 years ago at the Chautauqua Institution, “Making History through Speechwriting,” and you can watch it on —DM

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