Letter: Good speechwriting takes preparation

To the Editor:

Thank you for the delightful article about Ridgefield’s own Cody Keenan, who as a young man rose to become President Obama’s chief speechwriter. What wonderful speeches many of them were, works of art really, not only lifting up their audience at the time but likely to be studied in the future as models for what gifted oratory should do. Your article makes clear that those speeches took enormous effort, with many preliminary drafts before they reached the president and then him redrafting them with Cody so much that the president had them memorized by the time he actually gave the speech.

In contrast, President Trump gives terrible speeches: his inaugural, where he disappointed anyone hoping for a needed reknitting of national unity, his recent speech at CIA headquarters, another commemorating Black History Month, and a third at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Part of the problem is that he can’t be bothered to write a speech and thinks he can just wing it — an insult really to his audience, which deserves signs of effort from any speaker on the dais. And in winging it, he falls back on his favorite subject — himself — and commits errors that would be laughable in a middle school student, like implying that Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, is currently having a moment. But it is also a problem that he has only a bare bones staff of six or so, most of them political hacks or ideologues, none of them gifted at writing. Therefore, there is no pipeline for a natural talent, like Cody, to rise to the top.

Probably Trump’s base would respond that oratory is an effete skill that he has no need of since he simply “tells it like it is,” whatever that “it” may be.

What a tragic loss of an essential skill of the president.

Perrie L. Ridley