The Oratory of Barack Obama
Michael Waldman is a nationally prominent public interest lawyer, government official, teacher and writer. He became director of the Brennan Center in October 2005.
Mr. Waldman was Director of Speechwriting for President Bill Clinton from 1995-1999, serving as Assistant to the President. He was responsible for writing or editing nearly 2,000 speeches, including four State of the Union speeches and two Inaugural Addresses. Previously, he was Special Assistant to the President for Policy Coordination (1993-1995). Mr. Waldman was the top administration policy aide working on campaign finance reform, one of the Center's signature issues, and drafted the administration's public financing proposal.
He is the author of several books, including My Fellow Americans: The Most Important Speeches of American Presidents (Sourcebooks, 2003); POTUS Speaks: Finding the Words that Defined the Clinton Presidency (Simon & Schuster, 2000); and Who Robbed America? A Citizens' Guide to the Savings and Loan Scandal (Random House, 1990).
Prior to his government service, Mr. Waldman was the director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, then the capital's largest consumer lobbying office. After leaving the White House, he was a Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government (2001-2003), teaching courses on political reform, public leadership and communications. Most recently he has been a litigator in private practice in New York. Mr. Waldman appears frequently on television and radio to discuss public policy, the presidency and the law. Michael Waldman is a graduate of Columbia College (B.A., 1982) and New York University School of Law (J.D., 1987), where he was a member of the Law Review.
Topic: The Oratory of Barack Obama
Michael Waldman: Well in my job, right now, I’m nonpartisan, so whether Obama’s delivering it or not, I’ll leave to others or my private thoughts. Anybody running for president and anybody who serves as president has to do a variety of the same thing, which is to call up the very basic, traditional American ideals and use them to make an argument about our place in the world and about public policy. Certainly, Obama has done that a lot and very effectively in this campaign. He places his campaign in this context of American history and of American ideals and our quest to live up to the ideals in a way that all the greatest presidential speeches have done from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan, and that’s what you’ve gotta do. And now John McCain is not as proficient a speaker from a prepared text. He has written books, and when he’s in a town meeting, he can talk the same way and make people really understand how the moment today meets the moments of where the country has been courageous in the past. For McCain, you know, the challenge is going to be to step up to it when he has to give a big, formal speech.
Michael Waldman sees Obama succeeding and McCain lagging behind when it comes to speech making.
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