Presidential speechwriterSpeechwriting – An Address to the United Nations

I spent 10 days polishing and streamlining the Prime Minister’s speech to the United Nations in 2003 and working on the delivery.

On his return to Sri Lanka, The Prime Minister took over 8 hours to complete the 30 km drive from Bandaranaike International Airport to the capital Colombo due to the crowds who had come out to greet him.

According to www.globalsecurity.org:

“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has returned to a hero’s welcome in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. Tens of thousands lined the streets outside the airport to celebrate the return of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Swarmed by officials and supporters at the airport…”

Speechwriting is always reasonably high pressure because it is often forgotten about by the person giving the speech until very late in the day and then they panic and pass the pressure on to the person selected to write the speech. This man was different. He understands the need for good speechwriting and for an external speechwriter and gave me personal time as his speechwriter to ‘get into his head’ so that I was able to do my job of speechwriting for him effectively.

Because we had never met, he gave me full access to most of his meetings in the 10 days we were in New York together. This helped me understand his way of speaking and his preferred vocabulary.

He also understood that having a speechwriter who ‘gets it’ is still not enough. He allocated time to practice his speech with me. It was always late at night in his corner suite after all his meetings were finished but it was valuable time that was essential for the success of his speech.

Having recently left university with little experience outside of academia, the prospect of job searching and interviews, in what is being described as one of the toughest times for young people to do so, filled me with dread. Having got myself a telephone interview with one of the big four audit firms, I went to Peter to pre-emptively show me where I was likely to go wrong.

In just one day he was able to tear down my hesitant, textbook approach to answering questions and really help build and convey the unique character and skills I should be emphasising, while highlighting the less desirable aspects of my responses.

Now, having gone through all the phases of the graduate programme application, I have been told I have a position within the company. That was the first job interview I have ever attended. Not a bad hit rate, and I have no doubt that it is predominantly down to Peter.

Ben Scully

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