Monday, July 10, 2006

"Ladies and Gentlemen...........

……… gives me great pleasure…….”.Well that’s the opening of a good many speeches that go on to provide little pleasure for the captive audience. That, I suppose, is why I get a number of requests each year to provide something a bit more inspiring for the social speaker to deliver. Fortunately, I don’t have requests from politicians but I’m not too proud to take a commission from one or two if they asked.

I’m not sure when these worthy gentlemen (using the words loosely) gave up writing their own stuff and started to use compliant hacks to do their dirty work, but I’m pretty sure Caesar wrote his own material.

Much later, Benjamin Disraeli certainly would have done so, being a better novelist than he was a politician and of course Winston Churchill, a magnificent speechwriter, would have scoffed at the idea of using someone else to write for him.

It seems to have started, as with so many thing, in the United States, with Roosevelt, FDR, not Theodore, who could and did write his own. It has always puzzled me since FDR was the most cerebral of presidents and was more than capable of putting his thoughts into words. He was, I understand, a bit on the idle side when it came to office work, which may account for the team of writers he used. Even his “Fireside Chats” would not come under the heading of his own unaided work and one of the team, a young man later to become famous in his own right, John Kenneth Galbraith, once related how they would listen to the broadcasts, eager to see which of their suggested phrases and “bon mots” the great man had incorporated into his talk.

Some later presidents were even more drastically in need of writers.

But for the casual after-dinner speaker or those called upon to address some sort of social gathering, It might be worth the trivial sum to engage someone such as myself to help out a bit. It’s as well to brief your writer thoroughly not only on the subject of your talk but also on the demographics of the audience. It is unwise to include that sparkling anecdote about two drunken Irishmen and a pig in a speech to the United Mother’s Temperance League. Come to think of it, nor to a group of Irish or, for that matter, an association of pig fanciers.

But now I have requests for a couple of speeches and I’m searching for an opening phrase that will be both original and attention getting………

……….now I’ve got it!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking………………”.


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