Why Do Politicians Need Speech Writers?

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From “Four score and seven years ago…” to “Ask not what your country can do for you, ” politicians have long been associated with the content of their most famous speeches. The reason we remember these speeches is due, in part, to the force and charisma of the speaker, but even the greatest orator is only as good as the words that they speak. However, the world’s most notable political speeches were written by an often anonymous group or people known collectively as political speech writers. Even the recent speech alleged to have been plagiarized from an earlier one by Michelle Obama was not written by Mrs. Obama herself, but by her speechwriter, Sarah Hurwitz.

You may wonder why, since so many prominent leaders like CEOs and politicians from Mike Crapo to the President are intelligent and well-spoken in their own right, do they need professional speech writers? The reason is not, as some critics say, because they are puppets who are devoid of any will or ideas of their own. Much of the time it comes down to expediency. One may be an effective leader without necessarily possessing the ability to write an effective speech as well as a professional writer can. Another issue is time. With so many speeches and public appearances scheduled in the day-to-day life of the average industry or political leader, it would be difficult to write detailed and effective communications without help.

There are very few of us who can get up in front of a large crowd and speak from the top of our heads while remaining on-topic and maintaining a clarity of vision. It is also true that the best minds may not be the most effective at translating their vision to the spoken word. A good writer can take ideas and facts and position them in such a way that people can identify with them and become inspired – or even incensed – upon hearing them.

Though the sight of a politician mindlessly parroting the ideas and words of another is mostly the stuff of Hollywood movies, there is still a perception that politicians who don’t write their own speeches are simply corporate or political mouthpieces spouting the party line. However, this misconception is largely based on the performance of people who are bad public speakers to begin with. It is a fact that when we see someone blatantly reading from a teleprompter with a deer in the headlights stare and lack of inflection, we turn off. When we hear intelligent words pouring forth from the mouth of one who has a gift for gab, we listen.

In the end, a memorable speech is brought to life by a combination of skillfully crafted words and the oratory skills of the speaker, whether it’s a prominent politician like Crapo or your local ombudsman. Most leaders have a dedicated speech writer who works closely with them to ensure that the words they craft are true to the core of that persona’s ideas and personality. Public speakers want to put forth a polished image and minimize the risk of committing the kind of verbal faux pas that can occur during extemporaneous speaking. The best way to achieve that is by hiring a high-quality professional who can take the speaker’s own views and goals and translate those into words that move people.