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Think for a minute of all the crazy fantastic presidential speeches you've heard of. And if you're scratching your head, check out just a few of our favorites:
These are the best of the best for a number of reasons, including how passionate the speakers are, as well as the rhetorical power of what they're saying. But while the speech-giver matters a great deal, it's the speechwriter that's the crucial part of the process.
You know from your English class how important it is to use your writing to make a clear point and then stick to it, with evidence from reputable sources to back you up. Now, we know writing for a grade may seem like a bad deal, but for those presidents we were talking about earlier, things were really not good for some of them. So imagine the pressure of giving a speech that has to rally your people and give them hope, while not provoking your adversaries to do bad things.
Now imagine being responsible for writing that speech.
Anthony R. Dolan was the speechwriter for Ronald Reagan throughout his presidency, and had a hand in writing the Evil Empire speech. Think of the pressure this poor dude was facing—not only was the president going to read what Dolan wrote, but the words would most likely reach people in all corners of the world.
You know. Just another day at the office.
Writing persuasively is far from easy in any capacity, and that's essentially what Dolan was tasked with doing for Reagan with all his speeches, but especially with the Evil Empire speech.
Reagan had a political agenda related to the Soviet Union, and it didn't include nuclear weapons and on-the-ground combat. However, some American people were all for a solution that did include those things, and Reagan needed to make them understand—to persuade them—that theirs was not the way to go.
Even more than that, Reagan had to be firm in his beliefs without provoking the leaders of the Soviet Union, because nothing good comes from insulting the people you're trying to work with.
In writing the speech for President Reagan, Dolan was responsible for considering all these different factors, yet somehow still creating a speech that was unique and informative, and made a firm point. Plus, the voice needed to be authentically Reagan, needed to sound as if Reagan had sat down and typed the whole thing himself, when in all likelihood he probably offered a couple comments here and there, at most.
Throughout Reagan's presidency, Dolan was tasked with relaying the president's plans and goals to the American public. In doing so, he had to be sure the speeches adequately outlined the issues and analyzed all sides of the argument, while simultaneously preserving the president's unique voice. It's an art, really, crafting speeches that would sway the naysayers and nay the swaysayers.
Wait. That's not even a thing. See what we mean—nothing about speechwriting is easy.