The words that inspire and stir masses to action begin long before a skilled orator shouts them from a political podium. With the jotting of an idea or two on a scrap of paper, the pecking at a keyboard, deleting and editing, ideas turn from seed to blossom, from thought to word. While both Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy penned their own famous remarks, the movers and shakers of today more often turn to skilled writers to bring their ideas to the masses in language that their audience can understand and grab onto. Speech writers work their magic behind the scenes and truly have the power to change the world.
Start young. You can get a jump on a speech-writing career as early as high school. Get involved with clubs and organizations that force you to speak out. Even if you shun the limelight, it is important for your future profession that you understand the speaker’s point of few, the lift and lilt of the human voice, the reaction from a crowd to a phrase, joke or point of view.
Choose a college major in Communications, English or Journalism. Consider a minor in Political Science.
Read voraciously. You learn about language by immersing yourself in it.
Write. If you can’t attend college, take writing courses. You need a full command of the tools of the trade: grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, language, poetry and nuance. Work every day to refine your talent. Be clear and concise. The spoken word needs to be honed in brevity more than anything written.
Stay abreast of current events. You need to be able to incorporate life’s turns into the turn of your phrases.
Study great speeches and attend political rallies. Attend churches--pastors speak more passionately than politicians, and unlike their lay brethren, they are more likely to truly believe what they are saying.
Offer your services as early as you can, at every level. It’s not merely a case of "practice makes perfect"; it’s also about potential clients knowing your service is available. Build a website and a following.
Volunteer for a campaign. Choose someone in whom you believe--research their opinions, ideas, ideals and their speaking style. Presidential speech writers are not necessarily in their positions because they were the most qualified for the job. Often times, they are employed because they followed their candidate upward and were in sync with his values and beliefs. Aligning yourself with someone on an upward political trek is more assurance of job security than any course you will take far from the Beltway.
Empathize. While it’s easiest to write a compelling speech when the words come from your heart, if not yours , than be certain you understand what your client’s beliefs are.
Know your audience. You write not only to present the speaker’s thoughts, but also to hit a chord with a receptive audience. Talking about gun control to the NRA will not garner your speaker rave reviews, but writing about your candidate’s respect for the second amendment might.
Write, write, write. Have a notebook with you and fill it with your bon mots and musings.