Marty Kaplan is director of the Normal Lear Center and a professor at USC’s Annenberg School.
Thirty years ago he was a speechwriter, for then-Vice President Walter Mondale.
And today, because as he puts it, “I could use a jolt of ego this morning,” he chose to write a Huffington Post entry giving the background of a speech he wrote for Mondale in response to the Indochinese refugee crisis of the summer of 1979. The speech was delivered at a United Nations conference in Geneva, and Elie Wiesel was in the audience.
Take it away, Marty ….
I’ll never forget the moment when Mondale finished delivering the speech. I’d been told that the most we could hope for, as a reaction from the delegates, was a smattering of polite applause; instead, there was a sustained standing ovation. I caught Wiesel’s eye, and he nodded. Maybe there was a glimmer of a smile there as well, but it’s the nod I remember; I pretended that it was his way of saying, You did good, kid.
This is why we don’t recommend speechwriters crow about their work. Not because the client will object. But because your fellow speechwriters will gag!