Special Counselor’s keynote strikes a high note

An attendee at Ragan’s Speechwriters Conference applauds Ted Sorensen.

An attendee at Ragan’s Speechwriters Conference applauds Ted Sorensen

It takes a great presentation to get 300-plus speechwriters onto their feet and applauding with gusto. But that’s exactly what happened at the Ragan Speechwriters Conference when a legend graced the stage.

Famed special counselor and speechwriter Ted Sorensen, who worked with John F. Kennedy for 11 years and wrote some of the 35th president’s most memorable words, closed the Washington D.C. conference on a high note.

Appearing to speak without a script and reciting poetry from memory, he kept his audience in thrall as he reminisced about his days in the White House and shared his thoughts on speeches and speechwriters. Much of that experience is recounted in his new memoir Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History.

Mr. Sorensen described how he staved off an attempt by the publisher to subtitle his book In the Shadows of Power. The view that speechwriters are shadowy figures is an unfortunate prejudice, he said. He also scorns those who criticize the fact that presidents don’t write their own speeches.

“Someone else cooks their food and applies their expertise to military problems etcetera. So why not bring in an expert to write speeches?”

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