Speechwriting Group Takes Off
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 9, 2012 02:11
Max Harris (COL ’15) returned to campus this fall hoping to find an internship as a speechwriter in the D.C. area. But when he never got a job offer, he decided to create one of his own, partnering with six other students to form the Georgetown Speechwriting Advisory Group.
GSWAG is a student organization dedicated to writing speeches for university administrators, local politicians and think tanks. Formally founded this October, the club has expanded to include a seven-member executive board and 26 regular members.
The members of the group meet every two weeks. They receive speechwriting requests through the club’s website and the marketing and communications team.
This semester, the club leaders aim to increase awareness about and involvement in the group.
“We just want people to know who we are, what we do, what we can offer,” Harris said.
Harris said GSWAG aims to form partnerships with a wide range of individuals and institutions in the Georgetown and D.C. area. The group does not charge for its services, and GSWAG members are required to sign a confidentiality agreement that says members will not reveal their employers or the content of their speeches.
“We work to ensure that our work and our clients are kept confidential,” Harris said. “Confidentiality is a critical component to our club’s success, so we take it very seriously.”
Although these agreements prevent members from discussing the specifics of their work, Harris said that the group has already written at least one introductory remark for a university administrator and is currently working on another similar project.
According to GSWAG Vice President Will Simons (COL ’16), the group aims to shift its attention beyond the university’s gates soon.
“Off campus is really going to be the main focus going forward,” Simons said. “We really want to target small nonprofits, lobbying firms, county-level politicians and city-level politicians.”
Simons said he is confident that local institutions will be more interested in working with the organization, though none of the members have much formal experience with speechwriting.
“People are interested in using college students,” he said. “We think of it more as a collaboration process than them hiring us. … It’s a learning process throughout while we are working with our clients. We want our clients to receive high-quality work, but we are also going to be learning while we do it.”
Christian Chung (SFS ’15), GSWAG’s director of speechwriting, is one of the few members who can boast formal experience in the field: He interned for Caerus Associates, an international development company, from May 2011 to May 2012 and wrote the CEO’s keynote address for a business conference.
“The first keynote address was challenging and a bit complicated because of the topic and the sensitive nature of characteristics within it, but after working through the drafting process and learning the elements of speechwriting — like writing in the voice of the principal with the audience in mind as opposed to just composing a speech of facts — and after the help of my coworkers in editing, I enjoyed it and continued to work with the CEO to draft remarks and other written products during the rest of my time there,” Chung said.
In order to develop members’ speechwriting abilities, the club is in the process of organizing workshops that will be led by professional speechwriters. According to Harris, the first guest speaker is a speechwriter from the Obama Administration whose name cannot be released because of the confidentiality agreement.
“Guest speakers are a way for our club members to hear about professionals’ past experiences and receive career advice,” Harris wrote in an email. “Writing workshops are more geared toward honing in on specific writing skills and improving our writers’ abilities.
Writing workshops and guest speaker events are open to club members only.
Through the workshops, the club will begin to accomplish its goal of establishing working relationships with Georgetown administrators and off-campus organizations.
“One of the pulls for me, personally, is getting to make all these cool connections,” Simons said.
In addition, Simons indicated that he hoped the Georgetown University Student Association will take advantage of GSWAG’s services.
“We’ve contacted GUSA, and we’re going to try and develop a relationship with them,” Simons said. “We’re hoping that we can write debate prep for them, speeches [and] talking points for senate meetings.”
Simons said that the GUSA members he spoke to about this collaboration were receptive to the idea.
“In terms of speeches, on the rare occasions when anyone in GUSA gives one, they are handled internally,” Jake Sticka (COL ’13), GUSA chief of staff, wrote in an email. “That said, the GUSA executive would be happy to work with GSWAG just as it is with any other new and developing group.”