Monday, January 24, 2011

The SOTU Experts Speak: David Murray

Why One Speech Pro Resists SOTU Duty
By David Murray

The only people who dread the State of the Union speech more than those who have to write it is the editor of Vital Speeches. (That’s me.)

Why? Partly because I find speech analysis wearying to write and read. (Ironic, I know. It’s taken me years, as editor of Speechwriter’s Newsletter and now Vital Speeches, to realize to my great relief: Nobody is waiting to hear what I think. It’s not just the speech-savvy Vital Speeches followers who don’t need my opinion. It’s everybody who saw the speech. That’s the singular beauty of a speech: The speaker speaks, and the audience members decide for themselves whether the speech was true or not. It’s not Ulysses!)

But mostly I resist SOTU duty because the SOTU is not a speech. It is, as it originally was, an annual report to Congress. Only by now, it has become a solicitous nod to special interests, a dig at enemies, a smarmy salute to four carefully chosen American heroes who should be examples to us all. And yet, the speech must be written, and it must be read out loud, and it must be listened to and reported on.

Want to make it a speech? Easy: Shorten it to a 15-minute fireside chat about one crucial subject and telling everybody the rest of it's in the PowerPoint deck at

But as it is, analysis of the SOTU is best done by political inside-baseball types who can decode the thing.

As for the editor of Vital Speeches: Like last year, I’ll be watching the SOTU, and writing about it.

But I won’t be serious, and I won’t be sober.

Pull up a barstool. First round’s on me.

David Murray is the editor of Vital Speeches of the Day. He'll be live blogging the SOTU on his personal blog, Writing Boots (where this piece first appeared).

No comments: