Former White House speechwriter: Focus on just one thing

Clinton speechwriter Jeff Shesol tells how to focus your speech, become educator-in-chief, and write like Hemingway, not like Faulkner.

Ragan Insider Content

Former White House adviser Rahm Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, was a demanding message cop for President Bill Clinton’s speechwriters.

When writers gathered to discuss all the points that had to be included in a speech, Emmanuel would sit jiggling his knees impatiently, says Jeff Shesol, former deputy chief speechwriter for Clinton.

Eventually, Emanuel would explode “like clockwork,” slam his fist on the table, and say, “Look, this speech is about one thing! One thing!”

Shesol adds: “And then he would tell us what it was. And then he would leave.”

Shesol makes the point in a Ragan Training video released this week. In “Behind the bully pulpit: The (continuing) power of the presidential speech,” he offers points not only for White House writers, but for any executive speechwriter.

Focus on one key idea

Like Emanuel, become a message cop.

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