Speechwriters should have opinions about more than the content of speeches

They say you shouldn’t drink while you’re writing, but it’s okay to write while you’re drinking. Judging from a whiskey-enhanced outburst I made on my personal blog recently, both ideas are probably bad.

But damn it, I had a point about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner boiling down to, “the president and the top Washington journalists publicly declaring that, in the end, it all really is a game. And then, a week later, wondering why people call them ‘elites.'”

The event simply shouldn’t take place.

I think speechwriters should be much more engaged in debating—among themselves and with their clients—the proper occasions for speeches.

For instance, the State of the Union speech might have some cultural currency, but the State of the Company speech is just a waste of everybody’s time. Send the employees the deck, speak powerfully to the single most important theme of the year, and then open the thing up for conversation.

The football coach’s halftime speech. I’ve weighed in on that one before. Skip just one, I said, for the Gipper.

And, less outrageous but more common and corrosive, the speech delivered as a favor to an event organizer or as flattery to an audience. And if it were up to me, there would be no such thing as a “ceremonial speech.”

You might or might not agree. But speechwriters shouldn’t just defend their best lines. They should have strong opinions—that they share in job interviews—about what speeches are and are not for, when they should and should not be delivered.

I’ll be the first to start. If I get invited to write remarks for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner—which, granted, now seems fairly unlikely—I will turn the job down. I give you my sober promise. —DM

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