How might one go about becoming a political speech writer?
Until just recently I had my heart set on becoming a psychiatrist, but then I took a career aptitude test online and one of its suggestions was a political scientist. So I asked a counselor at school about what kinds of things that job includes and when he mentioned speech writing I was really interested. (I admit I have been slightly influenced by Barack Obama but that's beside the point) My English teacher said that I'm a "naturally talented writer" and I don't think that would be much of a problem. Now I have three questions:
1) When it comes to education, what path should I follow? What kind of experience would I need? I know I should probably major in political science, and I'm thinking about a double major in political science and psychology. I really don't know that much about college so a little help would be appreciated :-)
2) I know that you would need exposure to get that kind of job, so how would I go about getting that exposure?
3) What are the chances of me becoming a successful speech writer?
Uhhhh.... General? The whole point of the question is about how to become a political writer!!!
Asked By: rsnlfan - 10/22/2008
Study the careers of previous speech writers (Pierre Salinger, Ted Sorensen, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Peggy Noonan, Chris Matthews) for clues as to how they made it. All their career paths are somewhat different, but instructive, nonetheless.
My suggestions, if you are dead set towards doing this as a job?
Major in political science. You don't need a double-major...take a few courses in psych if it makes you feel better. Here's the truth about psychology--it's just COMMON SENSE about HUMAN NATURE. They give fancy labels to these common sense situations, and the trick is to learn that "bats-it crazy" isn't the proper term to use to describe a condition. You learn the labels, and off you go.
At EVERY opportunity, volunteer for campaigns--local campaigns, state campaigns, national campaigns. Volunteer early and often. Do a GOOD JOB (this is critical). Develop a reputation as a reliable go-getter. You won't start out writing speeches, you'll answer phones, you'll schlep, you'll do crummy, unglamorous and pedestrian chores. Do them willingly. Learn everything you possibly can about how a campaign is run--from the yard signs to the fundraisers. Make yourself VALUABLE to them.
Make sure that you let the principal (the person running for office) know that you're looking towards a career as a staffer in government service.
Setting your sights on an ULTIMATE GOAL of being a speech writer is setting your sights too low. Raise them up a bit--why not work towards an ultimate goal to be chief of staff to a senator, or to a President? I'm sure Karl Rove wrote a few speeches in his day (I gather you don't care for him, but once in politics, you've got to know what all sides are doing) but his goal in life wasn't to be a speech writer....all his life. But I've no doubt that he proofread and corrected the work of Bush's speechwriters.
It's a low to mid level job, speech writing. It can be rewarding seeing your words come out of other peoples' mouths, but it can get old after awhile (I did it on a part-time basis for several years in DC, simply because I fell into it and had a talent for it, and my bosses kept coming to the well--it got irritating to me eventually because it interfered with my primary work).
Keep in mind that when you write a speech for a politician or government leader, they'll change your words, first (and sometimes you'll think their changes suck) and second, that they will take CREDIT for what you wrote--you essentially give away your product when you write it.
FWIW, psychiatrists are some of the most neurotic, miserable and twitchy people I know--you're better off not going in that direction. The portrayal of them on the cable show "The Sopranos" is pretty close to my experience of friends in that profession!
Good luck--politics is an interesting life. Don't lose your idealism, and never, EVER, get into that "Anything To Win" mentality. If you do, you'll find you've lost your soul, and if you lose it, you will have a hard time getting it back.
You can't get back your integrity if you compromise your standards. It's the toughest test of life in that profession--you will be tempted; it's almost inevitable, unless you get lucky and work for an icon who wins elections by simply showing up.
Answered By: MS - 10/23/2008