Written last Thursday night; reviewed over the weekend, for sanity. —ed.
The kindest people in the world are experienced boxers, because they have all been down.
The second kindest people in the world are speechwriters. Second kindest because, though they have all been down too, there is one thing they will not abide.
So I told an Irish businessman tonight at San Francisco International Airport, during a sincere four-hour drinking session.
“Without going into too much detail,” he had asked me (after telling me about his business, as an international drug trafficker)—“tell me about these speechwriters.”
Without going into too much detail, I told him that speechwriters are a pleasure to serve partly because they are generous to one another, and grateful to those who pull them together.
Speechwriters are the only people in their organization who do what they do, so they love to be around the people who revere them: West Wing fans, and other speechwriters. Thus, one of the most prominent speakers at a recent speechwriting conference hung around for at least an hour after her session, because as she said, when she went home she’d just be a regular person. “But here, I’m a star!”
Speechwriters leap at the chance mentor. A speechwriter once asked for permission to allow a college student into a speechwriting event gratis. Really nice kid, we were told, who has an interest in speechwriting. The kid arrived at this professional gathering looking some combination of spaced/wacked out, with two missing bottom teeth and a berserk bedhead, in pajamas and slippers. He sat in the back with a glassy-eyed grin on his face doing the New York Times crossword. The speechwriter sponsor was a bit sheepish. He needn't have been.
Speechwriters are sympathetic to public speakers. Speechwriters suffer so many private and public humiliations thanks to factors they cannot control that if your PowerPoint goes down or your mic cuts out, they’re not only patient as you scramble, but usually by your side working the problem themselves. They’re also forgiving of nervous and clumsy speakers, because they guess they would be nervous and clumsy speakers themselves.
In fact, there is only one type of colleague or speaker that a speechwriter will not countenance. And I mean, will not. And that's a speaker who has not bothered to be coherent. In response to a rambling session at a speechwriting conference that shall remain nameless to protect a speaker who had a bad day, these loving, humble, generous and helpful people turned hard, using their words and wits to pillory the speaker.
Self-indulgent. He could have used a speechwriter.
The speaker was lost, and so was I.
I never really understood what he was trying to say—mostly because he never said.
I'd rather assume it was inspired performance art than a nearly solipsistic rant.
"Goddamn, I love these people," I told my drinking companion.
That was about the time he realized he'd missed his flight, and ordered another shot of tequila.