Schiffren: Sarah’s Speaking Secrets

Friday, September 5th, 2008 12:27 am by Neal

Former vice-presidential speech writer Lisa Schiffren has a unique insight into the huge success of Sarah Palin’s speech Wednesday evening. Read Why Palin’s Speech Worked:

Last night, Sarah Palin, the previously obscure governor of Alaska, demonstrated before a national audience that she has an extraordinary ability to communicate with Americans. As someone who used to make her living writing political speeches, I can say that Palin certainly knows how to deliver one. She is talented at properly inflecting words to maximize dramatic punch, and she doesn’t stumble over timing. These skills, and not the writing, are what make it possible for an audience to really hear a speech.

Consider that the man who wrote Palin’s speech, Matthew Scully, also wrote speeches for Vice President Dan Quayle (as did I), Vice President Dick Cheney, and President George W. Bush. Scully has produced many excellent speeches over the years. Yet despite their various virtues, none of those men ever electrified a room the way Palin did last night. They had the words, but not the music—and absent compelling delivery, words are easily ignored in our media age. Dramatic delivery is a critical political skill that few Republican leaders have had since Ronald Reagan.

In a nutshell, Palin did the four things that she had to do. She offered repeated endorsements of John McCain and a comprehensive rationale for supporting him. She provided sharp criticism of the Democratic presidential candidate. As a newcomer, she demonstrated intelligence, ease with substantive matters, humor, and natural talent sufficient to explain why McCain chose her as his running mate. And she introduced herself and her family on her terms.

Schiffren then discusses the details of the “four things” Palin had to do. You owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.

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