Policy and Persuasion: Former U.S. presidents' speechwriters discuss speechwriting in the post-truth era
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For all the romance of writing for a U.S. president, the challenges common to any speechwriter—working with a speaker, knowing the audience, researching and distilling complex topics—well, to say they are amplified would be an understatement. In this panel, speechwriters who have held the top job contemplate what it means to be in their field—when audiences seek feelings over facts online and in speeches, and when they demand a direct line of communication with their leaders.
- When to push back and when to let it go, so you can make your point without damaging your relationship
- How to keep your writing fresh, when the message stays the same
- How your message can break through in a crowded, fractured media environment
Vinca LaFleur is a partner at West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and communications strategy firm in Washington, DC. A professional writer for more than 20 years, she has served client CEOs, philanthropic leaders, senior government officials, royalty and prominent public figures in the United States and abroad. A member of the National Security Council staff from 1995-1998, LaFleur served as a special assistant and foreign policy speechwriter for President Bill Clinton. She holds a bachelor of arts summa cum laude from Yale University and a master’s from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Noam Neusner is a principal at 30 Point Communications. He has experience in speechwriting and preparation, media prep and training and strategic communications planning. Noam draws on more than two decades of communications experience in the private sector, the U.S. government and as a journalist. This knowledge, and strong writing skills, allow him to help clients shape opinion, inform the public and achieve goals. He served as President George W. Bush's economic and domestic policy speechwriter for nearly two years. He managed all communications and media relations for the Office of Management and Budget and twice oversaw the editing and production of the federal budget. He worked nearly a dozen years as an award-winning financial journalist at U.S. News & World Report, Bloomberg News and the Tampa Tribune. Noam co-authored or edited four books. In 2007, he was the Walter E. Hussman Sr. Scholar in business journalism at University of North Carolina. He holds a BA in writing seminars from The Johns Hopkins University. @NoamNeusner
Chris Michel is an attorney at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and the former director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush. Starting at the White House as an intern in 2003, he came to hold almost every position in the speechwriting office. He wrote or researched more than 500 presidential speeches, including five State of the Union addresses. At the end of Bush's second term, he moved to Dallas to assist President Bush with his presidential memoir, Decision Points, and a biography of his father, 41. He then attended law school at Yale and clerked for Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit and Chief Justice John G. Roberts. He practices law in Washington, D.C., and teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife and two daughters
Sarada Peri is a speechwriter and communications strategist. She served as special assistant to the President and senior presidential speechwriter for President Barack Obama. She was also a member of the 2012 and 2016 Democratic National Convention speechwriting teams. Prior to joining the White House, she was a Principal at West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and strategy firm. Before falling into speechwriting, Sarada worked on Capitol Hill as an education and health care policy advisor to former Senator Mary Landrieu. She started her career as a high school English teacher through Teach for America in New Orleans. She is a graduate of Tufts University and holds a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.