Getting help from the Political Speechwriter’s Companion

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers. Today I write about the book The Political Speechwriter’s Companion.

When I wrote about Robert Lehrman’s New York Times article on speechwriting, on Nov. 12/12, I was shocked to receive a “thank you” email from him three days later.  He was charming (effective writers usually are) but he did more than that. He also told me something interesting.

“As a classic longtime undiagnosed person with ADHD,” he wrote, “going on Ritalin made an enormous change in my life when it comes to producing things under my own name.” He claims that speechwriting —  with its enormous pressure to produce words under punishing deadlines —  is the perfect career for people with ADHD.

He also told me that this explained why so many newspaper reporters — also known for punishing deadlines — smoked. Nicotine allows people with ADHD to focus themselves. This is presumably why so many reporters objected so strongly when smoking was banned in newspapers. (Me? I welcomed the ban. As a lifelong non-smoker I was so relieved not to have to stink like an ashtray at the end of each working day!)

Since my email conversation with Lehrman, I’ve had the chance to read his book, A Political Speechwriter’s Companion, published by CQ Press (2010.) It’s an excellent reference and belongs on your shelf if you ever have to write any speeches. I really like the way he offers annotated speeches illustrating the points he makes. I also really enjoyed the “as delivered” feature, which provides URLs to speeches he suggests we watch.

But the single chapter I enjoyed the most related to Monroe’s Motivated Sequence (MMS.) Alan Monroe was a 1930s rhetoric professor from Perdue University. His speech-preparation sequence includes the following steps:

1. Get attention

2. Describe the problem.

3. Suggest a solution

4. Show you vision of how this will work

5. Ask for action

I’m going to try this plan for my next presentation! Thanks, Robert Lehrman.

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