“The Work of a Speechwriter”
November 09, 2011
You would think we corporate types
would be the most concerned with how
the words sound as they dress the ideas
and erect the paragraphs that emerge
from the executive mouth in the hope
of meeting with, mating with, first
the ear then the head then the heart.
And we are, concerned that is, but it’s
not the first thing because the first thing
is always will it sell to the boss, will it
sell to the boss’s boss, will it sell
the executive VP as this fragile ship
sails uncertain seas before docking
in the CEO’s office, and even then
no port is ever safe or secure, even CEOs
have bad days and take it out on the speech
and it flies its way back as an act
of humiliation. But first it has to make port.
We sit in our cubicles and are told not to be
sound-bitish, read the latest New Yorker
because that’s what speechwriters do even
if was never the same after William Shawn
but it’s the ideas of reading it, you see, and
Foreign Affairs, too, and The New York Times
Book Review, completing the professional trinity
of right and impressive thinking. We gather
each Friday at 4 p.m. precisely, usually
in one of the cubicles, for the cynical hour.
We agree among ourselves, every Friday
at 4 p.m., that it might not get any better
than this. And it doesn’t.