The Craft Of Speechwriting

The Craft Of Speechwriting

Kojo explores what goes into crafting a great speech with people who've helped craft words for presidents themselves.

A good speech can rally people to a cause. But if you’re a politician addressing the nation on your plan for the next four years, you have to know how to appeal to people across the spectrum, and often times, you can’t do it without a little help. Kojo discovers who’s behind the scenes and what goes into crafting a great speech.


Mary Kate Cary

Former Speechwriter, President George H.W. Bush.

Paul Orzulak

Founding partner, West Wing Writers; Former speech writer, President William J. Clinton

Robert Schlesinger

Editor at US News and World Report, and author of White House Ghosts: Presidents and their Speechwriters" (Simon & Schuster)

Notable Political Speeches

Before 2004, Barack Obama was hardly known outside the state of Illinois. That year he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that launched him from obscurity to the national stage. His abilities as an orator convinced the American people that he could be leader of the free world. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex in April 1953 in his "Chance for Peace" speech. As the conditions of the Cold War deepened, he likened increased military spending to stealing from the American people. It's a speech that was highly effective in its time for its imagery and relevance to the era.

Jennifer Granholm's energetic remarks at the 2012 DNC definitely revved up the crowds, but we are left to wonder: Who writes this stuff?

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The Kojo Nnamdi Show is produced by member-supported WAMU 88.5 in Washington DC.