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Clarifying role of speechwriter

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 26, 2006

As someone whose byline graced the commentary pages of The Observer nearly three decades ago, I enjoyed the front-page article on my recent visit to campus. In an otherwise fine story, reporter Marcela Berrios stated that “speechwriters that are acutely opposed to one of the President’s stances are generally assigned to work on an unrelated issue, to avoid a conflict of objectivity.”

The reporter is, I believe, confusing what I had said about being an editorial writer with what I said about being a Presidential speechwriter. I had said that when I was at the Wall Street Journal, on some issues – especially social issues – we had a range of strong opinions among the writers, and no one would be asked to write an editorial taking a stand he disagreed with. Partly this is simple common-sense – no editor seeking to persuade people of his newspaper’s view wants an editorial written by someone who does not believe what he is writing.

A presidential speechwriter has a slightly different role. He or she serves a president who has been elected by the people to implement his vision, and we are here to serve him and help him explain that vision to the public. It is a high privilege, and it comes with corresponding obligations. There are always going to be policy differences within any administration. But if a speechwriter does not support the agenda of the president he serves, the answer is clear – he should get another job.

William McGurn Assistant to the President for SpeechwritingalumnusClass of 1980April 25