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Master Speechwriting Class with Hillary Clinton’s top Speechwriters

Last Friday SEGL held its second Master Class of the Spring 2012 semester with former State Department Chief of Speechwriting Lissa Muscatine and current State Department Speechwriter Megan Rooney. In five groups, our students presented speeches they wrote for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deliver before five different audiences.

The topic? The current violence in Syria.On Wednesday, Muscatine (who has written countless speeches for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, including Hillary Clinton’s 1995 women’s rights speech in Beijing and her 2008 Democratic National Convention speech) shared a series of instructive stories designed to explain how to be an effective speechwriter. After an engaging discussion (one question: “is it ever OK to stretch the truth as a speechwriter?”), she presented the students with their speechwriting assignment: the same sort of assignment she would give to aspiring speechwriters applying for a job at the State Department.

On Friday afternoon, Muscatine and Rooney spent 30 minutes on each speech, offering praise and constructive critiques. Is this the best word for this audience? Could this phrase be interpreted more negatively than you intended? Does the speech have the proper balance of logos, ethos, and pathos (Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle)? Muscatine stayed for an hour after the two-hour session, answering additional questions and telling compelling stories from her time with the Clintons. The students’ speeches can be seen here.

Click here to read the background and small group speechwriting assignments that Muscatine provided to the students, as well as the students’ final speech drafts.

This week we also devoted time to the 2012 Presidential election. On Wedesday afternoon we met with Lise Clavel, who directs the Obama re-election campaign in Virginia (one of four “battleground states” that the campaign has identified). Lise spoke off the record about running a come-from-behind Congressional campaign, serving as Chief of Staff for a member of Congress, and the Obama campaign’s current goals and strategy. On Friday we trekked to the American Enterprise Institute, a leading conservative think tank, for a lunchtime discussion about the Republican contenders. The panelists included historian Richard Brookhiser, author of several bestselling books about American Presidents (see his recent Daily Show interview here). The AEI conversation can be seen here.

This week we tackle the global HIV/AIDS crisis and welcome Ambassador Mark Dybul, the Bush Administration’s Global AIDS Coordinator, for our third Master Class.

Feb 20, 2012

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