Speechmaking: Don’t Go With Your First Draft.
President Dwight Eisenhower is not remembered as a great speaker. Even in his time, his speeches were considered dull and predictable.
Yet, when Eisenhower delivered his farewell address some 50 years ago, that speech was neither dull nor predicable. In fact, it is now considered one of the greatest speeches ever given by an American President.
In his farewell address, Eisenhower warned of a “scientific-technological elite” that would dominate public policy, and of a “military-industrial complex” that would claim “our toil, resources, and livelihood.”
A warning about military power and its consumption of the nation’s wealth might have been expected from a politician with liberal political views, but not from the most celebrated general of World War Two.
For a long time political scientists wondered how much forethought went into that address. A lot, we now know. The New Yorker magazine reported recently that documents have been discovered that tell just how much effort and care went into its preparation. It was well known in the inner-circle that this was something the President very much wanted to say. Drafts of the speech were batted back and forth for months and underwent an astonishing 29 drafts.
Eisenhower’s speech confirms an old saying, that there is no such thing as good writers, just good re-writers.