In speechwritiing, the distance from the ideal speechwriter-client relationship to the typical one is a journey of many miles. And years, unfortunately. Ask a speechwriter what is the gold standard for relationships between speechwriters and their leaders, and the scribe will take you back more than 50 years, to John F. Kennedy and Ted Sorensen. The two got to know one another intimately on many airplane rides in the 1950s, when Kennedy was still a senator. Sorensen ghostwrote Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage, and contributed heavily to Kennedy's famous inaugural speech, although whenever queried about his role in that speech, Sorensen said, "Ask not."
Kennedy came to call Sorensen, "my intellectual blood bank."
It appears Michelle Obama and her speechwriter, Sarah Hurwitz, have a relationship that at least ought to be considered in our search for a model speechwriter/client relationship from this century. Hurwitz, according to a Washington Post article this week, has worked for the First Lady since before she was First Lady—since just before the Democratic National Convention in 2008, where she helped re-introduce the woman seen as angry, elitist and unpatriotic as working class, family-oriented and politically reluctant.
Eight years later, Hurwitz is still working for the First Lady unsurprisingly, the Post article is full of quotes like this.
“As I write for her now, I’m sort of editing the speech with her voice in my head because she’s given me so much feedback over the years and been so clear about what she wants."
That sounds awfully good, does it not? —DM