Sunday, July 17, 2005

So you want to be a Speechwriter?

The writing fraternity in Canada is abuzz with talk that the Prime Minister’s speechwriter, Scott Feschuck, has decided to vacate his post. This means that for the first time in decades there is an actual job opening for a writer in Canada. Wherever writers gather, be it at book clubs, poetry circles, narcotics anonymous meetings or Margaret Atwood’s house, this subject has dominated all others.

Personally I think this represents a wonderful opportunity not only for professional writers but for all unemployed Canadians.

Unlike most jobs, this one is a cinch to apply for; all letters to the Prime Minster of Canada are postage free.

If you are applying for the gig you will have to provide a sample speech. Don’t get carried away and attempt to write a Speech from the Throne. A Throne Speech outlines the government’s priorities and its agenda. It’s not the writer’s job to decide the direction that the country is headed. That is sole responsibility of the Director of Communications.

So, what kind of speech? My advice is to put yourself in the shoes of the people around Paul Martin. Consider this: a Strategic Counsel survey released this past week suggests 52 per cent of respondents believe the Prime Minister should be immediately replaced as leader of the Liberal Party. Based on those numbers it is safe to assume that those closest to him are looking for work elsewhere. It’s probably not a happy place, but it pays.

If I was serious about getting the job, in light of the poll results I think the smartest approach would be to craft a short but eloquent concession speech for the Prime Minster.

Actually I would write a speech for each of the two obvious scenarios. One to be used in the event of an election in which the Liberals get their asses kicked from sea to sea to sea and another to be used in the event of a devastating result at a leadership review.

My professional advice – avoid clichés at all cost. For speech number one, the election night speech, I would start with something pithy and original like:

Prime Minister
“My fellow Liberals; we are bloodied but we are unbowed! We may have lost official party status tonight, but we are still a force to be reckoned with! To Stephen Harper, I say congratulations; I’ll be out of the house by Monday.”

After that you would want to wrap it up pretty fast; the networks will have cut to Calgary by then anyway.

For the devastating leadership review speech I would start with a joke.

Prime Minister
My fellow Liberals… I wish politics was like booze. Hey 27% is a big number if you’re talking alcohol content! (Pause for laughter) Speaking of alcohol I need a drink. Thank you and good night. Screw you Ignatieff!

My only other advice is to keep it short. Nobody likes a long-winded Prime Minister. (If you get the job, good luck getting that message through his head.)

Send all applications to:

I want to be a Speechwriter
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2


Remember, when corresponding with any Member of Parliament, sign off by asking to be added to his or her Christmas card list. This way, when December rolls around, you will know if anyone bothered to read your letter.