23 May 2014

No presidential speechwriter ever wrote a speech for his boss totally on his own.
THE other day I gave a speech in front of a bunch of women who both learn and teach public speaking. Which meant that I had to work hard on my speech, to make sure that it made sense and that I knew it well enough to sound convincing.
In fact I work hard every time I have to give a speech.
I am unable to say anyone else’s words so I have to write every word myself.
Before I do that, I have to read and research my topic so that I can speak with some credibility.
Then I try and write a different speech each time even if I’m talking about more or less the same things, if nothing else for me not to get bored and let that boredom creep into my voice.
Being sincere and passionate about your subject is to me very important.
Which is why I don’t understand how some politicians can get up and simply read out a speech that they’ve never seen before.
At least that’s what it sounds like when you read that they’ve made a speech full of terms they don’t understand, as well as invented new nonsensical ones.
I do get it that some people are too busy to write so many speeches themselves.
In that case, they employ really great speechwriters.
President John F. Kennedy employed Theodore “Ted” Sorenson who wrote his inaugural speech in 1961 that included that famous line “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist William Safire wrote speeches for President Richard M. Nixon and until recently Jon Favreau was Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama.
British Prime Ministers also have their speechwriters but Winston Churchill was so skilled an orator, he wrote all his speeches himself.
It’s obvious we don’t have our own Winston Churchill. At the same time, we obviously don’t have a Ted Sorensen either.
In any case, no presidential speechwriter ever wrote a speech for his boss totally on his own.
A major policy speech starts off with discussions between the speechmaker and his entire policy team on the points that need to be made.
Then the speechwriter writes a draft setting the general tone of it. The final speech still has to be vetted and finalised by the person giving it.
If there is anything unclear in the speech, it has to be thrashed out completely because otherwise the public will surely demand to know what it all means.
Thus it is strange that any politician would ever consider giving a speech full of terminology that made no sense and which he would then be forced to clarify. Nor is clarification on Facebook a good substitute for issuing a proper statement.
If I were caught in such a situation, I would haul up whoever wrote the speech, bend their ears until they yelled in pain and tell them they are never to write a speech again. Actually I’d just fire them.
But maybe I’m being generous in suggesting that there are people who are fooled into making speeches that they had no hand in writing, where literally the speechwriters put words that they did not believe in their mouths. But to actually deliver such a speech, without a thought for the many implications of its words, leaves many issues unaddressed.
If that speech is to be believed, then the logical follow-up is to withdraw from all human rights bodies that Malaysia is a member of, including the United Nations.
To be a member of the Human Rights Council which Malaysia is, makes no sense.
There might not even be any point in being a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) that does recognise human rights too, albeit with some tweaks. And domestically, Suhakam should be disbanded.
But if human rights are bad for Malaysians, how do we talk about violations overseas?
How do we describe the plight of the Palestinians or of the Rohingyas if not as human rights violations?
What do we call concern about them if that is derided as mere “human rightism”?
When people are deprived of their homeland, nationality, food, shelter, education, jobs and healthcare, how do the anti-human rights people describe the situation? The way things should be?
Or do they simply not care?