Friday, January 23, 2009

Hey, I Wrote That!

by G.Parker

In a conversation with a coworker yesterday, we discussed how nobody writes their own speeches anymore. I'm not sure if the President ever wrote his own speech -- perhaps Lincoln wrote his own in the Gettysburg address. But so many people judge the man on what he says, you'd think he'd have more to say.

It's unfortunate that one of the most powerful men in the country isn't allowed to write his own speeches. Or is it, perhaps, that he doesn't have time? I would imagine that was where it started. I mean, after Lincoln, the President became so busy running the expansion of the nation that they didn't have time to pound out a speech. Maybe.

Using the excuse that 'they didn't write that' wouldn't hold water either because apparently they are supposed to approve and edit the speeches that are written for them.

Wouldn't you like to have that job?

"Yeah, I'm a speechwriter for the president. No, I didn't think that statement would have caused such a scandal, I mean, I thought everyone knew about Cuba..."

I think it would hold a lot of pressure. To know that what you were writing was something to be taken by the American people as word for word what the President thinks and feels -- it would be daunting. Surely they would need to know the man. In my research on the idea, I discovered that some of them do still write some of their own stuff. Clinton (Heaven help us) apparently wrote half of his own speeches. It's also a requirement that they write their own acceptance speech, thought I don't know how strictly that's adhered to.

Unfortunately, most of us have to write our own speeches and talks. When I give a talk in church, it's my own thoughts, fears and worries that go into it.

When we write our stories, it's us. We can't use the excuse that someone else wrote it, because that's what we're doing -- we're the writers. I would imagine a ghostwriter would love to be able to say, "Hey, I wrote that," but that's part of being a ghostwriter, isn't it? I think ghostwriting would be a similar job to that of speechwriter. No one but the big guy gets the credit or the bad perhaps that could be a good thing.

But part of the reason we write, well -- perhaps for some of us it's 50 percent of the reason, is to be recognized. We want to be known for our writing. If we write an article for the newspaper, a magazine or other medium, we want our name right there under the title. I guess you could say it's one of the few quirks of the trade. One of the few pleasures afforded us as the average writer.

Of course, how big you sign your name could be a whole other subject...


Th. said...


Is it so bad to collaborate? Lincoln had people read and help him rewrite. Washington did very little writing himself. Obama is heavily involved in his speechifying even if it's not 100% him. They want to do the best they can. Ergo a writing group. Pretty good plan, really.

(Although in my gut I agree with you completely. I would much rather have the own man's actual words and none other's. But it'll never happen so might as well accentuate the positive.)

G. Parker said...

That's true...we have to deal with what we get!

Heather Justesen said...

Funny how we quote the president, and put his name on it, but it's not really his words--it's someone else's. To be perfectly honest, though, with the media picking apart every word he says, I'm not sure I would want to claim to have written what the president said--it could cause a riot. =)