Things are tough all over

He wrote speeches at NATO. He was very frustrated. He thinks that means NATO needs to change. He is right. But NATO is not alone.

Former NATO speechwriter Patrick Stephenson has a piece on Foreign this week that demonstrates that the organization is utterly sick.

Stephenson’s experience writing speeches for NATO showed him that the organization is almost hilariously hidebound, risk-averse, navel-gazing and just plain stupid.

Stephenson’s piece is a fun read, you’ll like it.

In fact, you could have written it yourself—about pretty much any institution where you have worked as a speechwriter.

Stephenson has only written speeches at one organization, and clearly he thinks that the problems he had were NATO problems. And of course they are NATO problems. But they’re also NASA problems, IBM problems, BP problems, GE problems, NAACP problems and ASPCA problems.

NATO happens to be on the political firing line at the moment, and arguably needing to explain itself. 

“People rarely support something they don’t understand, and it’s clear they do not understand NATO as well as they should,” Stephenson concludes. “Let’s begin by allowing a little freedom of expression in the institution dedicated to defending the idea. Let’s implement true reforms by encouraging creativity without simply slashing budgets. Let’s allow good speechwriters—and NATO has them, right now—to write the speeches that will get the secretary-general in the debate about transatlantic security.”

Yes, let’s make those changes at NATO.

And let’s make them at every other institution where professional speechwriters work.

Until then, a large part of the speechwriter’s job will be having the cleverness to achieve small victories and the patience to wait for the occasional chance to pull off a minor communication miracle.

And meanwhile, we wish Stephenson luck in his next speechwriting job—and we look forward to his next piece, about how his new employer reminds him a hell of a lot of those nitwits at NATO. —DM

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