Jay Homnick has delivered a superb piece on speechwriting for the American Spectator today. I once had a conversation with him in which I tried to get him to tell me some of the people for whom he had done some ghostwriting. He politely refused. I was disappointed, but I get it now.
Reagan is the hook in Homnick’s piece and it hits particularly hard with me because I am one of those speechwriters who has too often been willing to acknowledge that I wrote remarks of public personalities. I take Mr. Homnick’s piece as a well-deserved rebuke. The writer may write, but the speaker puts their reputation and position on the line.
My experience has been that the speeches are much more powerful if one can have a discussion with the speaker to get at his/her true heart. Make that investment and the speech will truly belong to the speaker. Homnick is right that we writers for public figures are merely ciphers trying to submerge ourselves in a persona. I suspect that was particularly easy with Mr. Reagan.