"Secretary Clinton accepted some speaking gigs during a brief period when she was a private citizen. The organizations that hired her wanted to hear what she had to say. To imply or infer something more is ridiculous."
So said a communication consultant on Facebook yesterday. Sorry, but I'm a savvier and wiser girl—which makes me think she should definitely release the speeches, and assume that the speeches will be mostly boring, as she has claimed.
Look: Organizations hire speakers for many reasons other than wanting to hear what the speaker has to say.
They hire speakers to flatter their constituents. "Condoleeza Rice came to speak, just to us!"
They hire speakers to associate the speaker with their brand. "You know, Colin Powell gave a speech to their sales force."
And sometimes, the high cost of the speaker is actually one of the selling points, especially when organizations hire speakers to win the appreciation of their constituents: "We care about you so much, we hired Hillary Clinton to speak, and you can just imagine what that cost!"
Do organizations hire speakers to deliver specific messages to their constituents? Sure. Sometimes they know the speaker will deliver messages their constituents want to hear. Less frequently, they figure the speaker will deliver uncomfortable messages they want their constituents to hear. Always, they expect the speaker to deliver a message that agrees with the thrust of the organization. Not lies, not spin, not promises—just messages that fit with the organization's interests: A big company put on a lot of conferences a dozen years ago and paid Tom Friedman to speak, as Friedman's "world is flat" message melded with the company's vision for global commerce.
Do I respect Friedman a little less for taking dough to speak at events staged by a big global corporation? I guess I'd have a little more respect for a journalist who declined the invitation. Do I believe Friedman said anything at those events that utterly contradicted his actual philosophy? No. The crime, if there was one, was in the showing up and lending implied journalistic legitimacy to the company's business strategy. And that crime was out in the open, and if I don't like it, then tough for me.
I think most people who know a lot about paid speaking gigs are not expecting a lot of revelatory pandering to Wall Street audiences if Hillary Clinton releases her speech transcripts. Unless Clinton, surrounded by a bunch of Wall Street types and eager to please, told them that the 2008 economic collapse was actually the fault of the selfish, bovine middle class, I think she's probably right: These speeches are going to be slight variations on the themes she's been boringly pushing forward all these years.
I could be wrong. And because of that, Clinton should probably release the transcripts of the speeches. And get on with things. —DM