Home » 3 Famous Speech Writers Throughout History: What They Teach You About Public Speaking

3 Famous Speech Writers Throughout History: What They Teach You About Public Speaking

Professional speech writers help leaders craft informative speeches that connect with their audience. However, while a good speech is compelling, the people behind the speech are not always put in the spotlight. After all, a great speech is more about the content than the writer.

That said, some individuals are so talented at writing a speech their good speech writing makes them famous. Before we discuss these three famous writers, it’s essential to articulate what they do and why they are so crucial. Essentially, what makes a great speech writer?

Learning from these iconic individuals can help you learn tips on how to create a compelling talk. Whether you need to write wedding speeches, persuasive speeches, or simply want to know how best to capture your audience’s attention, learning from those before you can be your guide.

Bear in mind that while we discuss writers for presidents, there are many types of speechwriters. People hire a speech writer for various reasons, but every great writer shares a few commonalities.

What Is A Speech Writer?

A speech writer is an individual who conducts the necessary research process, writing, and editing, on behalf of the speaker. Individuals in both the public and private sectors often hire speech writers.

While you may associate speech writers with elected officials, such as vice presidents or presidents, you can also employ a speech writer for smaller events.

Since speech writers dedicate their lives writing speeches, employing one can help you create the best bullet points to enable your audience to listen attentively.

Speech writers cover a variety of events and write for well-known and lesser-known individuals. In order to define what makes a great speech writer, let’s cover three major speech writers throughout history.

Alexander Hamilton: A Detail Not Included In His Musical

Whether you know Alexander Hamilton from your high school history class or the musical named after him, Hamilton was a friend of George Washington. So when the first president of the United States decided to step down from office and wanted to give a farewell address, Hamilton was involved.

Although Washington originally asked James Madison to write his address, eventually, the task was turned over to Hamilton. Hamilton created his draft with full creative liberties but also incorporated Madison’s. Amendments were made, and the speech underwent many changes.

Alexander Hamilton is famous in many ways. However, following his death and Washington’s, controversy broke out concerning who wrote Washington’s Farewell Address. However, Hamilton’s wife publicly stated that:

“A short time previous to General Washington’s retiring from the Presidency…Hamilton suggested to him the idea of delivering a farewell address…with which idea General Washington was well pleased… Mr. Hamilton did so, and the address was written.”

Even President George Washington needed a speech writer at the end of his two terms. Hamilton was his go-to, and his speech has been remembered for decades. Never underestimate the power of a great speech or the tedious edits that make it so.

Judson Welliver: The First Presidential Speech Writer

While Alexander Hamilton is partially known for writing the famous Farewell Address, Judson Welliver is known as the first presidential speech writer. Until Warren G. Harding, there was no official speech writer for presidents.

However, Welliver was present for Harding, and when he took office, Welliver’s help transitioned into writing speeches. When Calvin Coolidge entered office he also used Welliver’s writing tips. Consequently, speech writers as a whole never left the White House.

Welliver was widely known as a newspaperman before his transition into speech writing for presidents. Before Welliever’s time, speech writers were not a standard commodity for presidents.

Judson Welliver helped where he was equipped to. Using his talent where needed, he created an entirely new position within the government. The name Judson Welliver should not go without notice.

Richard N. Goodwin: Capturing History With A Pen

Richard N. Goodwin married Dorris Kearns Goodwin. He did not know that just as he captured history through famous speeches, his wife would capture his career as well. In fact, he is a standout example of what makes a great speech writer.

Goodwin was considered a staff celebrity when President Lyndon B. Johnson recruited him to become his speech writer. Goodwin is credited with writing some of the President’s most well-known speeches.

He only served for two years on President Johnson’s staff. Regardless, one of these speeches is the 1965 famous address to Congress, in which the president called for voting rights legislation.

Although his political career was brief, Goodwin left an indelible mark as a speech writer. What is said lasts for decades, not just on the page but in the minds and hearts of those who hear them. Working as a speech writer isn’t simply a job but a way to embody the struggles and successes of others. Speech writing allows you to become a voice for history.

How Do You Become A Speech Writer?

Becoming a speech writer largely depends on what type of speeches you want to write. Regardless of who you one day work for, an elected government official, maid of honor, or even need to write your own speech, self-educating is important.

Take the necessary time to study the above names as well as lesser-known individuals. Pay attention to the small dedtails that made these names great:

  • Alexander Hamilton edited his speech over and over
  • Judson Welliver filled a need with his talent
  • Richard N. Goodwin became a voice for history

Additionally, add in study of the art of communication, debate, and even body language. Once you have a general understanding of how to write a great speech, you can do the following:

  • Volunteer at events that encompass your field of interest
  • Practice writing speeches
  • Watch memorable speeches

However, there’s more to becoming a great speech writer than learning the steps of how to pursue this career.

TEDx Talk, speechwriter

What Makes A Great Speech Writer?

A great speech writer knows how to write an effective speech by implementing the following:

  • Creating a quality speech structure
  • Knowing when to repeat keywords and phrases
  • Presenting the core idea in a concise manner

The execution of a speech is left up to the speaker. A great speech writer trusts the speaker to voice their final draft with great tone, appropriate eye contact, and timely pauses.

The more speeches you write, the better you will understand how to write in another person’s voice. Speech writing is a type of ghostwriting. It’s crucial to draft your speech in the voice of the one presenting it.

It takes time and effort to draft a speech that:

  • Fits the occasion
  • Is the correct length
  • Matches the tone of the speaker
  • Is written to the right audience

But what if you don’t only want to become a great speech writer? Instead, you want to also ensure the speech is delivered exactly the way you hope it to be?

You Are Your Own Speech Writer: How To Start Excelling Today

When you realize you have the power to become your own speech writer, your options are limitless. Now you know examples of famous speech writers throughout history. You learned what makes a great one, and that you can be your own. Follow these few steps:

  • Surround yourself with the right team to help you succeed.
    • You can create an environment that enables you to not just write a great speech, but deliver a great speech.
  • Focus on how to become the best speaker you can:
    • Hone in on your uniqueness
    • Perfect your presentation skills
    • Write your memorable speech

Many individuals spent time crafting and giving speeches that changed their life forever. When you write a memorable speech and deliver it with excellence, you have potential to succeed in astounding ways.

The great news is, if you are interested in public speaking, you can be your own speech writer. Build a group of qualified individuals around you. Learn exactly what goes into a speech that your audience will remember and practice your delivery.

Before you know it you could step on stage and present the talk you always wanted to share. Remember: When you realize you have the power to become your own speech writer, your options are limitless.

You learned about the history of speech writers and what makes a great speech writer. You have the world before you—it’s time to get writing!


Sarah Rexford
Content Writer

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