Where did you get your storytelling chops?
Believe it or not, at the U.S. Library of Congress. Long before the Internet arrived, I spent many weekends there (we lived nearby when I was a kid). Over several years I made a deep study of speeches by everyone from Cicero to Elizabeth the first, General Patton and Martin Luther King, Jr. What I discovered was that the greatest speeches in history have a musical structure and form. They are built on theme and variation, counter-theme, a climactic reprise and a coda. They include leitmotifs and “melodies.” And that’s just the beginning...
Applying these lessons in high school public speaking contests got me the opportunity -- at age 17 -- to share platforms with Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater (addressing audiences of 10,000 people); to visit the White House and meet the president; and to pay for college with a single speech (thanks for the generous scholarship, Veterans of Foreign Wars).
What's something you wish more speakers would leave out of their storytelling?
You write speeches for Jay Walker, TEDMED chairman. What does it take to write for such a frequent speaker?
Do you have a favorite TED or TEDMED talk? What is it and why is it your favorite?
If you knew you could not fail, what kind of speech or presentation would you give? Tell us about the setting, audience, type of talk, content...
What's your public speaking pet peeve...as a speechwriter? As a member of the audience?
One more pet peeve: that tired cliché that “some things are too deep for mere words to express.” If you can’t figure out how to express it, go hire a gifted writer who can. But don’t blame the English language!
Why is public speaking worth the effort, in your view?
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