The Language of Leadership: WH Alumni and Gov Insiders Share Speechwriting Secrets

During the 36 years of this Ragan conference, attendees have heard from former White House and administration speechwriters dating back to President Ronald Reagan. In honor of that tradition, we’ve gathered an all-star panel of speechwriters to share their stories and insights — focusing on how to use “the language of leadership” to show authority, take responsibility and even speak out on potentially divisive topics, conflicts and even hot-button social issues. We’ll cover:

  • The “Language of Leadership”: Strategies and examples for showing authority, exemplary leadership and taking responsibility in times of crisis — including insights from an undelivered Eisenhower speech.
  • Historical perspective: How speeches have changed — from yesterday’s “speeches-as-entertainment” to today’s multi-purposed content for fundraising, emails and even Instagram posts — and how organizations can adjust.
  • WH alumni secrets and stories: Behind-the-scenes tales and techniques of presidential and government speechwriting.
  • Emotions and empathy: How to “speak from the heart” to connect emotionally while prioritizing empathy and honesty around polarizing issues.
  • Moving rhetoric: How metaphor, parallelism, anaphora, chiasmus (a JFK favorite) and other rhetorical devices can elevate and personalize speeches on sensitive topics.
  • Trust or bust: How to communicate with clarity, transparency and consistency on topics where dis/misinformation must be countered at every turn.
  • Personal branding advice: Career and thought leadership tips for speechwriters — how to build your brand, cred and career.
  • Jeffrey Nussbaum
    Former Senior Speechwriter to President Joe Biden
    Author, "Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches that Would Have Rewritten History"
  • Daron Christopher
    Project Management Institute
  • Patrice Smith
    Vice President, Regional Communications
    PNC Bank