Political Speechwriters & Executive Speechwriting Firm http://inkwellstrategies.com Inkwell Strategies | Washington, DC Tue, 24 Jul 2012 00:03:54 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 Update on the Inkwell Blog http://inkwellstrategies.com/update-on-the-inkwell-blog/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=update-on-the-inkwell-blog http://inkwellstrategies.com/update-on-the-inkwell-blog/#comments Tue, 24 Jul 2012 00:02:02 +0000 Danny Fersh http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1364 Looking for your regular dose of speechwriting news and tips?  Head on over to our Facebook page.

Visit Facebook.com/speechwriting and like us to get involved in the conversation!

http://inkwellstrategies.com/update-on-the-inkwell-blog/feed/ 37
Quote of the Day: Franklin D. Roosevelt http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-franklin-d-roosevelt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quote-of-the-day-franklin-d-roosevelt http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-franklin-d-roosevelt/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 13:20:43 +0000 Danny Fersh http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1356

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.

http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-franklin-d-roosevelt/feed/ 3
Quote of the Day: Brian Littrell http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-brian-littrell/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quote-of-the-day-brian-littrell http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-brian-littrell/#comments Wed, 13 Jun 2012 22:06:23 +0000 Danny Fersh http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1354

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-brian-littrell/feed/ 1
Speechwriting Tip: How to Be Genuine Like Meryl Streep http://inkwellstrategies.com/speechwriting-tip-how-to-be-genuine-like-meryl-streep/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=speechwriting-tip-how-to-be-genuine-like-meryl-streep http://inkwellstrategies.com/speechwriting-tip-how-to-be-genuine-like-meryl-streep/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2012 22:23:02 +0000 Joshua Miller http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1347 Continue reading ]]> When most people face the task of giving a speech, they often spend great effort trying to sound intellectual or humorous.  They seem fixated on reactions, thoughts, and opinions of their intended audience.

While those are all valid considerations, there is an important rule that must never be forgotten: always stay true to your own voice.

Although this statement echoes that of a corny line from an after-school television series, the words convey a timeless truth.

Yes, part of the speaker’s responsibility is to relate to listeners. But, in the end, it’s your voice and how you choose to send the message that counts most.

That is why this post is devoted to Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep.  She is an undeniable screen and stage powerhouse, but should also be recognized for her very candid acceptance speeches.  Take a look at her acceptance speech at the 2009 Screen Actors’ Guild Awards her role in the film Doubt.


Oh, I didn’t even wear a dress!

Clearly, eloquence isn’t everything. And why should it be? Being genuinely grateful goes much further than attempting to be graceful with million-dollar words and phrases.  The audience’s reaction proved that they loved Streep’s message about female actors and their contribution to the film industry- no matter how rough-around-the-edges it may have sounded.

I am so in awe of the work of the women this year- nominated, not nominated. So proud of us girls!

The most memorable part of the speech was when the actress gave an unexpected shout out to her Oscar-nominated co-star, Viola Davis.

The gigantically gifted Viola Davis. My God, somebody give her a movie!

Again, it’s not a perfect delivery, but Streep’s authentic joy and burst of emotion come through and make the speech stand out.

Here is Meryl’s thank you speech after winning an Emmy in 2004 for her role in Angels in America.


Notice what she does when the orchestra begins to play the queue music.

…Thank you so much for everything you gave me- [singing] oh, and I can sing this just as well.

While it is important to have your thoughts written down in front of you, sometimes it’s best to allow yourself to live in the moment, letting whatever emotion come through.

This last video is Streep accepting a lifetime achievement award from AFI.


Rather than starting the speech off with a grand historical quote about acting or films, Meryl conveys her appreciation with prolonged curtsey (or some variation of a curtsey, anyway).

Small words and phrases can convey big ideas. But short moments of silence can be just as profound:

I really want to thank some people who aren’t here. Not because they didn’t want to be, but because they’re in heaven. And umm [moment of silence] without them, I wouldn’t be able to make this silly little speech. So I want to thank my mother and my father- just the funniest and the saddest and the most musical, gorgeous and weird, strong personalities; who fought each other 60 years and taught me everything I know about drama.

While Streep has a few pages written for her speech, it’s pretty clear that she goes off script.

When preparing a speech, take into consideration the subject, the audience, and the message. However, don’t let those concerns choke your voice. Stay true to who you are and how you sound because –more often than not- the audience will appreciate genuineness above any forced rhetorical grandeur.

http://inkwellstrategies.com/speechwriting-tip-how-to-be-genuine-like-meryl-streep/feed/ 5
Anna Quindlen: The Greatest Speech Never Made http://inkwellstrategies.com/anna-quindlen-the-greatest-speech-never-made/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=anna-quindlen-the-greatest-speech-never-made http://inkwellstrategies.com/anna-quindlen-the-greatest-speech-never-made/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2012 21:48:10 +0000 Rocco Giamatteo http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1342 Continue reading ]]> Over the past few weeks, the Inkwell Blog has run a countdown of the five Greatest Speeches Never Made. The list consists of five written addresses that, for one reason or another, were never read aloud for their intended audiences. After analyzing #’s 5, 4, 3 and 2, here’s our take on what we believe is the Greatest Speech Never Made:

In most cases, self-serving motives dictate the path an orator travels in writing an address. A prosecutor writes a closing statement to obtain a guilty verdict; a CEO drafts a formal resignation to protect his image; a politician gives campaign speeches to win reelection. Generally, speakers deliver speeches according to their own stake in the occasion at hand.

Commencement speakers, however, lack such a clear stake. Assuming they’re not politicians addressing potential voters, they receive little personal and often no monetary gain for their appearance. The commencement speech lacks the typical, more predetermined goal one might find in other types of addresses. The writer asks not, “How should I say this?” but “What do I want to say?”

This is why commencement speeches are so difficult to write. Their writers have no content boundaries beyond the vague and conventional standards of “give them life advice” and “inspire them.” With no limitations, they must choose a facet of life to discuss, and, in so doing, disregard countless others which could each make for a potentially better speech. Using Orson Welles’s words to sum up the problem, “the absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”

In June 2000, former New York Times columnist and bestselling author Anna Quindlen made this would-be enemy her best friend. Asked to deliver a commencement address at Villanova University, she refused to whittle life down to any one subject and decided to tackle all of it. The result is not just a fantastic speech, but a fantastic commencement speech– one that transcends the limited audience and cliché message of many graduation addresses.  Unfortunately, it was never given.

A Catholic University, Villanova had several students who vehemently disagreed with Quindlen’s outspoken endorsement of abortion rights. Due to the threat of protests, Quindlen decided to withdraw from the ceremony. A disappointed student asked Quindlen for a copy of her undelivered speech, which then enjoyed wide internet circulation before it was expanded into a book.

The speech – entitled “A Short Guide to a Happy Life” – has a very simple message which might sound trite in the hands of another writer: “Get a life.”

She reminds us that life is, in fact, something you own; it does not just happen to you. As such, it can be taken in any direction you choose. While she’s not so bold as to suggest which way is best, she does provide some guiding principles to help along the way.

These principles are rarely, if ever, revealed on the surface. Instead, she paints small vignettes from which the audience can intuit an underlying message. She makes you listen with your gut rather than your ears:

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Whenever an insight does bubble to the surface, it is too powerful or brilliant to dismiss:

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kid’s eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live.

Most striking about the speech, however, is its shear candor. Quindlen starts out by admitting that she has no “specialized field of interest,” confessing that, as a novelist, “real life is all [she] knows.”

Her insights thus come off as heartfelt and sincere, as if Quindlen is chatting with everyday people. In fact, her closing anecdote is about a regular conversation she once had with a homeless man on Coney Island’s boardwalk. The man chose to live outside in the cold rather than in shelters because of an ocean view he just couldn’t part with. Life is more than a series of paychecks and promotions.

At work, in marriage, with family, with friends, and in general, Quindlen says one must “Show Up. Listen. Try to Laugh.” If a homeless man can do so through a New York winter, so could her anticipated listeners throughout their post-graduation lives.   While it is unfortunate that graduates did not hear this speech 12 years ago, it remains a relevant and powerful speech to read today.

Thus, it tops our list of the Greatest Speeches Never Made.

If you’d like to view the whole speech, check out the link below:


http://inkwellstrategies.com/anna-quindlen-the-greatest-speech-never-made/feed/ 4
Quote of the Day: Friday Night Lights http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-friday-night-lights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quote-of-the-day-friday-night-lights http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-friday-night-lights/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2012 14:40:44 +0000 Danny Fersh http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1340

Success isn’t a result. It’s a by-product.

http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-friday-night-lights/feed/ 0
Political Gaffes Are a Product of the 24-hour News Cycle http://inkwellstrategies.com/political-gaffes-are-a-product-of-the-24-hour-news-cycle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-gaffes-are-a-product-of-the-24-hour-news-cycle http://inkwellstrategies.com/political-gaffes-are-a-product-of-the-24-hour-news-cycle/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2012 20:45:39 +0000 Amanda Ziesemer http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1337 Continue reading ]]> Back when newspapers dominated the media world, the headline spot was saved for the most newsworthy event of the previous day.  Along with the evolution of the 24-hour news cycle, headlines adapted to the technology age and now change constantly.

Even if quality is maintained, the sheer quantity of news reports has nearly ended the age of iconic reporters.   The vast amount of knowledge available has diluted the set of manageable information on politics and candidate positions.  This inundation of facts and quotes and stories and polls is where gaffes draw their strength.

Sound bytes are easy to remember amidst the overwhelming content available.  Stripped of context, a single gaffe can make or break a campaign.  Any explanation is irrelevant to political pundits or the general public.  For politicians, the incessant coverage and dissection of their every word makes any speech, interview, or off-the-cuff comment a serious matter.

Some argue that rhetorical gaffes are glimpses of a politician’s true beliefs.  On the flip side, a gaffe could easily be a genuine slip of the tongue.  Regardless, in this day and age, gaffes matter. Just ask John McCain, whose comment that “the fundamentals of the [American] economy are strong” on the eve of the worst recession since the Great Depression cost him dearly in the 2008 presidential election.

As the 2012 campaign gets underway, both Obama and Romney have made speaking gaffes prime for political scrutiny and analysis.  With Obama’s reputation of rhetorical genius and Romney’s put-together image, their gaffes receive more prominent attention than slip-up prone sound byte machines like Joe Biden.

In the latest round of unfortunate quotes, Obama has been portrayed as out of touch for declaring, “the private sector is doing fine” at a press conference.  Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has been painted the enemy of public servants as he insinuated less government means no need for “more fireman, more policeman, more teachers.”

The Obama camp surely wishes the President’s answer was a better fit for sound byte media; Romney’s speechwriters certainly learned a lesson about framing the issue of smaller government.  The takeaway is that no matter the context or intended meaning, gaffes play a prominent role in a public figure’s image and voter opinion.

Campaign ads rely on gaffes for content and the media is just waiting for the next speaking misstep.  Being on constant guard is difficult and detrimental to the substance of political conversation, but is the price we must pay for the speed and availability our current news system offers.

http://inkwellstrategies.com/political-gaffes-are-a-product-of-the-24-hour-news-cycle/feed/ 1
Speech of the Week: Father’s Day Edition http://inkwellstrategies.com/speech-of-the-week-fathers-day-edition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=speech-of-the-week-fathers-day-edition http://inkwellstrategies.com/speech-of-the-week-fathers-day-edition/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2012 19:06:05 +0000 Danny Fersh http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1331 Continue reading ]]> This Sunday millions of Americans will celebrate the men who helped bring them into the world, raise them and teach them how to be a good citizen: their fathers.

In honor of Father’s Day and fathers everywhere, this week’s Speech of the Week comes courtesy of Matt Drayton, the fictional dad played by actor Spencer Tracy in the classic 1967 film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

For those unfamiliar with the movie, here’s a quick refresher course: Matt and his wife, Christina (Katherine Hepburn), are shocked when they learn that their daughter’s fiance, John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), is African American. This week’s SOTW comes toward the end of the film, when Matt reveals his true feelings about a number of things, including his daughter’s engagement to John, in front of his wife, daughter, future son-in-law, and his parents. It’s one of the great daddy moments in film history, and here’s a link to watch it:


Matt begins by answering a previous criticism that he does not understand the love his daughter shares with John. His eloquent, heartfelt answer about loving his wife moves everyone in the audience and, more importantly, establishes his credibility as a father who can rightfully give advice on matters of the heart.

With the audience’s trust in his pocket, Matt gets his main message going with this gem about outside opinions:

In the final analysis it doesn’t matter a damn what we think. The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel for each other.

The rest of the speech is alternately sweet, hopeful, and starkly honest. In the end, though, Spencer Tracy’s delivery makes it impossible for any audience member to leave without believing that his daughter’s marriage will last forever, and that Matt will support it every step of the way.

It’s an entertaining moment for moviegoers and a proud moment for fathers – fictional and real – everywhere. 

http://inkwellstrategies.com/speech-of-the-week-fathers-day-edition/feed/ 1
Quote of the Day: George Bernard Shaw http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-george-bernard-shaw/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quote-of-the-day-george-bernard-shaw http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-george-bernard-shaw/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2012 13:24:15 +0000 Danny Fersh http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1329

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-george-bernard-shaw/feed/ 0
Quote of the Day: William James http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-william-james/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quote-of-the-day-william-james http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-william-james/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2012 17:53:01 +0000 Rocco Giamatteo http://inkwellstrategies.com/?p=1327

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

http://inkwellstrategies.com/quote-of-the-day-william-james/feed/ 0