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DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

Is having a speechwriter unique to the U.S.?

Asked by DoNotKnowMuch (2974points) July 21st, 2016

People seem upset about the recent plagiarism related to Melania Trump’s speech, yet nobody seems to care that the alleged plagiarist is Melania’s speechwriter who stole some lines from Michelle Obama’s speechwriter.

This is theater, yet it’s presented as an essential part of a functioning democracy. Why are we ok with the concept of the speechwriter?

How can people feign outrage at the apparent plagiarism? And how is this different from arguing about the actions of a person on your favorite “reality” tv show?

Are other countries subjected to the same theater? Are their leaders just performers who read or have memorized their lines?

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17 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

It is not uniquely U.S. There is even a Speechwriter’s Guild in the UK. And French President Sarkozy had one too.

The big difference over Trump’s speechwriters and some of the classic speechwriters (like William Safire) is that the best orators work closely with the speechwriter, so that the speaker’s thoughts and philosophy are communicated.

The Trumps seem to be just reading a script.

Strauss's avatar

I am not sure how unique this is to the United States, but it is a long tradition, dating at least as far back as President Warren G.Harding in 1921. There are some indications, according to this Wikipedia article, that Alexander Hamilton wrote speeches for George Washington, the US’s first president.

More recently, speechwriters have been used by Paul Keating, (Australia’s Prime Minister 1991–1996), and Margaret Thatcher, PM of UK 1979–1990.

stanleybmanly's avatar

swaying the crowd is too critical an endeavor to be entrusted to a candidate alone. When you vie for a powerful Federal office, it is no longer a question of hiring a speechwriter, but more about acquiring a staff.

canidmajor's avatar

“Why are we ok with the concept of the speechwriter?”
Why not? Why would we be less OK with a speechwriter than a ghostwriter? Having someone better and more eloquently able to express your views and philosophies is a good thing. Unless, of course, your preference is for someone who expresses themselves spontaneously and without filters, like the Republican candidate does. Lots of people like him for that.

“How can people feign outrage at the apparent plagiarism?”
I think a lot of people are genuinely outraged, not feigning it at all.

“And how is this different from arguing about the actions of a person on your favorite “reality” tv show?” Idiotic question. Presented to this set of users in this particular forum, it smacks of a way to infantilize and insult the Fluther community. Really, if you honestly believe we are all incapable of finding the door, simply because we don’t all agree with you, why are you here?

Lightlyseared's avatar

Given how long it takes to write a speech (or anything else for that matter) having someone do most of the hard work makes sense other wise most world leaders would be sat at home all the time trying to write speeches as opposed to doing other stuff….

…which might not be that bad. Thinking about it.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

@canidmajor: “Why not? Why would we be less OK with a speechwriter than a ghostwriter?”

Good point. I suppose if having a speechwriter was suddenly looked down on, the practice would continue but without known authorship.

@canidmajor: “Unless, of course, your preference is for someone who expresses themselves spontaneously and without filters, like the Republican candidate does. Lots of people like him for that.”

I think this is much of the appeal of someone like Trump. If people have a general distrust of politicians and their slick speeches, a guy like Trump comes off to many people as more genuine. It’s sad, however, that the only guy who appears to be speaking in an unrefined, honest manner happens to be a jackass.

@canidmajor: “Idiotic question. Presented to this set of users in this particular forum, it smacks of a way to infantilize and insult the Fluther community.”

Huh? Really? A question about the entire country and its mass media is somehow a focused attack on fluther? I’m not sure why you seem to think that I’m perpetually attacking you when I try to discuss things.

@canidmajor: “Really, if you honestly believe we are all incapable of finding the door, simply because we don’t all agree with you, why are you here?”

Can you translate this sentence, because I’m honestly not sure what you are asking? Thanks.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

@zenvelo and @Yetanotheruser – thanks.

@Lightlyseared: “Given how long it takes to write a speech (or anything else for that matter) having someone do most of the hard work makes sense other wise most world leaders would be sat at home all the time trying to write speeches as opposed to doing other stuff….”

But do we need these theatrical devices? Aren’t people quite cynical anyway, and see speeches as vacuous statements and manipulative language? Don’t you think most people would appreciate a politician getting up and just talking?

Pachy's avatar

Common practice everywhere, I’m sure. The Golden Age of Great Oration is long past. And even some of history’s oration giants (like Churchill) probably had writing assistance. We now live in the Styrofoam Age of tweeting and sound biting.

Strauss's avatar

It’s one thing to get up and make off-the-cuff remarks, as in a press conference. There is a need in more formal speeches or presentations, for concise wording so that there is no question as to meaning. The English language can be tricky, and can be easily misunderstood. If you don’t believe me, choose a random thread on this site, and look at the many ways one statement can be construed (or misconstrued).

canidmajor's avatar

Your use of the second person indicated you were directly addressing your immediate audience.
As to the rest, if you honestly don’t understand the reference, I apologize for assuming that you could.

Seek's avatar

@Pachy – Most people (Bernie included) have staff to write their Tweets for them, too.

A gaffe can get around the world before the delete button can get its pants on. Can’t take chances.

Jaxk's avatar

It’s actually more wordsmithing than speech writing. The person still needs to define what they want to say and the speech writer then creates the words and phrases to, hopefully, provide a memorable line or phrase. Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster ” this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved good-bye, and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”, was memorable even though not original. Everybody wants that memorable line, few get it. Current politicians including Barrack, Michelle, Biden and Hillary have been caught plagiarizing from others. The current flack about Melania is neither new nor unique. Not many can create a Gettysburg Address but all want to. So they use a speech writer to try and get there.

Strauss's avatar

@DoNotKnowMuch This is theater, yet it’s presented as an essential part of a functioning democracy.

It’s certainly been the art of oratory, historically at least, which, as @Pachy has indicated, has been on the wane over the past several decades. Presidential politics has, sadly, become theater’s ugly stepchild, reality TV, and has been so for several election cycles before the star became the candidate.

Buttonstc's avatar

Nowadays, there just aren’t politicians with as great an appreciation of literature and history who can unabashedly speak in as genuine and heartfelt a manner as Bobby Kennedy.

There were no speechwriters for this, given at one of the most difficult times in the history of the USA. As a matter of fact, his staff, as well as the local police, advised against it.

But he spoke from the heart and his words still ring so true torday.

I get tears in my eyes everytime I hear him quoting from Aeschylus and realize why it was so meaningful to him.
.
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https://youtu.be/GoKzCff8Zbs
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(I think that the main reason for the appeal of someone like Bernie Sanders is because those same qualities of true candor and genuine feeling is such a rarity in any other politician in this current age. )

zenvelo's avatar

thanks @Buttonstc. I believe if he had lived, Bobby would have been a greater President than his brother.

Buttonstc's avatar

I agree. He had a genuine concern and compassion for those less fortunate than he.

SmartAZ's avatar

So what’s yer problem? Even God uses speech writers.

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