Political Speech Writing and Galileo V


I think we can all identify with Sam Seaborn. I have definitely done some last minute prep for presentations in my time in college. I can’t say that I’ve added finishing touches to President Bartlet’s State of the Union speech on the way to the event but I can definitely sympathize.

The West Wing is the show that first inspired me to want to venture into the world of politics and speech-writing. Around the same time I started listening to Pod Save America, the podcast by some of Obama’s former speech-writers, I was also listening to Civics 101. Another incredible podcast, Civics 101 is a crash-course podcast that focuses on answering questions as to how American democracy works.

One of my favorite episodes is Episode 29: Political Speechwriting. Host Virginia Prescott speaks with Sarada Peri, former senior presidential speech writer for Barack Obama, about the art of political speech writing. Peri explains that many political speech writers fall into the job while on communications teams or while working on campaigns.

“It’s less about getting how someone speaks and more about how someone thinks”

Political speech writing is a pretty specific trade, though the tools that it requires can apply to any branch of successful communications. Here are some more tips and points Peri makes about political speech writing:

  • Immerse yourself in the person’s train of thought
  • Speech writing is collaboration with a team, you are all trying to help that person communicate
  • As writers, research is half the battle and a crucial part of speech writing
  • Interesting stories, quotes, and historical references can help enhance the point you are trying to make or the story you are trying to tell
  • If you generally disagree with the viewpoint your speaker is taking, it can be helpful to disagree so that you know how to counter the argument

And finally, what makes a great speech?

“What you will find it the best speeches, is a clear and persuasive argument, and the way you get to that is to have a central purpose. To know why you are giving this speech, and what exactly you want to convey so that at the end of the speech, the audience knows what it ought to think and feel and do.”

This short quote encompasses what all my professors have creatively pressed into my head for the past two years. It is true not only for political speech writing but for any type of communication that is trying to relay a message and encourage action from a public.

I will sign off with one of my favorite introductions written by Sam Seaborn, and communicated beautifully, as always, by President Bartlet.


Friend of the Pod: Political Podcasts

Photo by Max Wolfs on Unsplash

Podcasts are great tools to get the news, have some laughs and learn some new things. A majority of the news I consume is from NPR One which is an app that blends stories from your local NPR station with national news. NPR also peppers in some of it’s own podcasts such as Tiny Desk Concerts, Hidden Brain and the NPR Politics Podcast to name a few.

I started out listening to a podcast called Keepin’ It 1600, a political podcast from The Ringer which featured hosts John Lovett, Jon Favreau, and Tommy Vietor. The trio previously worked with former President Obama and Hillary Clinton as speech-writers and communications experts. After the 2016 election, the three created Crooked Media and have since launched highly successful podcasts such as Pod Save America, Pod Save the People, Pod Save the World, and more. The Crooked Media team and it’s shows deliver funny and gripping conversations about the current political climate from a progressively leftist perspective.

Another podcast comes from the Intercept which is, in my opinion, a daring media group and news outlet. It’s podcast is called Intercepted and is regularly hosted by one of the Intercept’s founding editors Jeremy Scahill. Intercepted goes into deep investigations on the current political scandals, looking at highly contested issues within the administration as well as analyzing the way mainstream media is now consumed.

Here are some other political podcasts that are worth listening to…

If you like them short and simple:

If you like in-depth interviews:

If you like up-beat and consistent reporting with analysis and discussion:

These are just a few of the hundreds of available and varying political podcasts you can listen to. Here is another list from UpRoxx of the 10 Best Political Podcasts right now. Political podcasts are a great way to get the news, hear some different opinions and learn something about American government and politics you may have forgotten from high school. 

How to listen:

NPR One is a great starting tool, you can also listen to podcasts on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Wired lists more platforms on it’s beginners guide to podcasts which is a great resource if you are just starting to pod.

Any other podcast suggestions? Let me know!



Enough is Enough

This phrase has been said after Sandy Hook, Pulse night club, and Las Vegas. This phrase has been used after every mass shooting that has occurred in the United States. This phrase has been ignored by policymakers time and time again as no significant gun control reform has taken place.

A design by @Amossussigan  https://twitter.com/Amossussigan/status/965375677636603904

After 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, people are fed up, replacing “enough is enough” with #NeverAgain. Students from Marjory Stoneman are speaking out, creating a march and a movement. The March for Our Lives will be one of the key events in the movement.

“On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington, DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority. The collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard.”

So, what about this movement is different? It might be the fact that it was created and is being spearheaded by the students that survived the shooting. Each student involved has displayed incredible courage and tenacity. Days after their friends, classmates and educators were shot and killed, these teenagers have created an impeccable force to be reckoned with.

Kali Clougherty, Jaclyn Corin, John Barnitt, David Hogg, and Sarah Chadwick.
Kali Clougherty, Jaclyn Corin, John Barnitt, David Hogg, and Sarah Chadwick. Credit: Remy Smidt/BuzzFeed News

In a BuzzFeed News article the students are shown in what looks like a big study group, except it is the headquarters of their movement. Cameron Kasky, one of the key student-leaders of the movement says that he has done around 50 interviews since the shooting. Along with Kasky, students like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg have become regular faces on prime-time news shows, spreading the word about the March for Our Lives, the #NeverAgain movement and demanding change from the government.

The movement has expanded and students all over the nation are finding ways to protest and demand action from legislators. At this exact moment, huge crowds of teenagers are headed to the capitol in D.C. to protest and other students across the nation are participating in walkouts.

There is no way of knowing what changes will be made to end gun violence and mass shootings. All we know for certain is that these students are not going away and this is just the beginning for them. Earlier today Hogg tweeted,

You can’t stop us you never will and you never can we have the strength and grit to last far longer than these politicians will that’s for damn sure 


Glam Up The Midterms: Will it work?

Billy Eichner is best known for his show Billy on the Street where he brings celebrities along with him to ask people hilarious and rather bizarre questions. Disclaimer- this post is delayed because I was caught up cry-laughing at this episode of Billy on the Street:

This year, Eichner teams up with Funny or Die and popular late-night hosts John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brian and more celebrities to Glam Up The Midterms. The campaign makes the 2018 Midterm Elections seem as glamorous and exciting as events like the Grammys and the Oscars.

“You think midterm elections are boring? Not this year. Funny Or Die and Billy Eichner are going to Glam Up The Midterms! Only 12% of young people voted during the last midterm election. Wow. That’s super embarrassing, America… Glam Up the Midterms will work to convince voters under the age of 40 that America hasn’t gone to shit and that they should vote in November.”

Eichner appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! two nights ago to announce the campaign:

Last month millions of people gathered all over the world to participate in the 2018 Women’s March. The theme this year was power to the polls, another initiative aimed at registering new voters.

Campaigns like these have the ability to affect voter turnout for the midterms and all future elections. Spreading awareness about the complexity of voting is admirable, however; some of these organizations have clearly biased agendas.

Power to the Polls has very clear goals in place:

“The national voter registration tour will target swing states to register new voters, engage impacted communities, harness our collective energy to advocate for policies and candidates that reflect our values, and collaborate with our partners to elect more women and progressives candidates to office”

This statement clears any confusion about what type of candidates the Women’s March wants to see elected: progressive women who reflect the values of the liberal “resistance” and who protest the current administration and it’s policies.

In the very short mission on the Glam Up the Midterms! site, the main goal is clearly to increase young voter turnout. Though some of the celebrities affiliated with the Glam Up have clearly stated their political preferences in the past, the mission statement itself implies that we are in a chaotic political state. Eichner even says that “the one productive thing you can do to change the course of things, or support what’s happening if you support it, is to go out and vote.”

Glam Up the Midterms! could be very successful if it sticks to it’s simple goal of increasing voter turnout in low-number districts and educating voters about candidates. Eichner and the team are headed in the right direction. If the Midterms seem glamorous and exciting millennials are much more likely to engage with their civic duty. I am very interested in seeing where this mission goes and what results it may bring on November 6, 2018.

SNL: Where does it stand?

A great way to relieve stress about the current political climate in our country, of course, is by making light of it. Saturday Night Live uses humor to demonstrate the confusing and chaotic behavior of Donald Trump and his administration. Whether it’s Sean Spicer (played Melissa McCarthy) chasing people on a podium or the President (played by Alec Baldwin) tweeting from bed while he receives his “daily briefing” from FOX and Friends, the show does not miss an opportunity to crack up it’s audience by centering sketches on what it sees as a troubling political reality.


©2018/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

While the show heavily relies on it’s parody of politics, not everyone is pleased with the  tone it takes. Miles Surrey of The Ringer explains, “It’s hard for any topical program to keep up with the unrelenting chaos of this administration, where a week’s worth of material could be packed into an afternoon. But with the extra attention, and the extra extra wellspring of material, SNL has rarely had anything meaningful to say, let alone any critical subtext to offer.”

Surrey suggests that SNL uses its platform to entertain rather than take a stance on the issues it parodies. This reminds me of the “stay in your own lane” attitude that some have taken towards famous entertainers and talk-show hosts who openly discuss their political views. Popular late-night host Jimmy Kimmel recently received criticism for his support of the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program, something he discusses frequently on his show. FOX and Friends host Brian Kilmeade called Kimmel a member of the “Hollwood Elite” for “pushing politics”, this sparked a sparring match between the two.

With popular late-night hosts like Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers openly discussing their criticisms of current politics and the Trump administration, is it ethical for SNL to take a definitive stance?

After Will Ferrell returned to host last week, Surrey thinks SNL is heading in the right direction,

“But where SNL is still finding its feet this season politically, the show’s biggest improvement on Saturday was the way it finally committed to addressing the #MeToo movement. Since the national reckoning with sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry and beyond — which began around the same time SNL started its new season, in October — the show has failed in covering the issue with nuance, save for a handful of gasp-inducing one-liners from the “Weekend Update” crew.”

In one sketch, a group of friends ate dinner while one woman asked about the others’ opinions on the Aziz Ansari story. Each person at the table uncomfortably spat out a few words trying to form a cohesive opinion on the subject as others at the table warned them to watch their choice of words. Ferrell’s character finishes the sketch by saying “we have to talk about something else” with Keenan Thompsan’s character replying, “yes, something less controversial”. Though the show made a few steps in the direction of taking a stance, as Surrey writes, “An inability to righteously skewer figures like Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, and Louis C.K. didn’t feel like complicity, but perhaps just a shade of trepidation.”

With increasingly controversial politics and social movements, popular institutions and public figures have openly and carefully picked sides. SNL’s lack of a definitive political preference may seem like a missed opportunity, on the other hand, it could be a strategic position for the show. If SNL were to completely change it’s tone, it might have more success in being partial, but as for right now, it is clear that the show’s ethos remains in it’s loyalty to providing comedic relief.







Trust Thy Sources

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Whether it’s Breitbart News or The New York Times, news outlets today are under heavy scrutiny. Particularly when it comes to political affairs, top stories face being labeled as “fake news” or littered with “alternative facts”. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, media has become the least trusted institution. While the fourth estate struggles to keep powerful institutions accountable, they are losing credibility with the public.

After looking at the data, Ragan’s PR Daily found that, “The loss of trust in media appears to have resulted in a loss of belief in objective truth, with 59 percent of respondents agreeing that they are ‘not sure what is true and what is not.’”

The fact that people are so unsure if they are getting the objective truth is quite worrisome. With rapid developments in technology and a 24-hour-news-cycle, how are readers supposed to fact-check and keep up with the latest news? One might consider using a fact-checking news site such factcheck.org or politifact.com to help clarify truths that may not seem objective.

Here is the factcheck.org mission statement: “We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.”

One of the great things about these fact-checking sites is the context they give to stories that were otherwise misunderstood because of click-bait constructed headlines. Debunking fake news is now an important part of every day life for consumers and these sites are an extremely useful resource.

In the SOJC, we are taught that transparency, ethics, social responsibility, and the public interest are imperative in effective communications. As public relations professionals, it is important that we weave these priorities into each story we tell and each message we relay.

In the words of my ever-challenging and ever-loving godfather; do not believe everything that you read!

Have a great week!






My goal for this blog is to take a deeper look at the intersection of politics, social media, and grassroots organizing. Specifically, my hope is to provide analysis on the successes and failures of current political figures, trends, and movements (yikes).

I will use this blog to document my quest to mesh public relations and my fondness for politics. To do this I am going to reevaluate how I get my information, news, and how my own ideologies form. I think that this is the best way for me to give an impartial analysis of what does and does not work in politics today. I am no seasoned politician and I am no Toby Ziegler. I am an aspiring public relations professional with a deep understanding of the power of rhetoric and its role in politics.

This is a broad and popular topic so bear with me as I narrow in on the theme of this blog and hopefully give a new perspective.