Borders and Identity

LE_Eithne_Operation_TritonGermany is now realising that it cannot make such an apparently open-ended offer, so is pressing hard for other EU countries to share the burden through some sort of mandatory quota system. Poland, Hungary and some other states are resisting. They have spent long decades if not centuries grappling to assert their national and linguistic identity under different imperial powers, and are determined not to see their hard-won independence eroded. Continue reading

Teaching The Vietnamese How To Write Speeches

vietnam I’m giving a workshop for diplomats on speechwriting, with material I’ve used dozens of times. But this first day hasn’t gone well in Hanoi.

Yes, Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, the country that once consumed me and my friends, then mostly left our minds in 1975, shortly after Marine helicopters lifted the last refugees and Americans off the roof of the US embassy. The country that in the past four decades has tripled in population, reduced poverty, and, not without missteps, created a nimble hybrid of communism and capitalism that’s brought 6 percent economic growth a year since 2000. Continue reading

Syria: The Shrek/Onion Paradigm

syria speechAny speechwriter’s toughest assignment: what words to use when the policy is in utter disarray? President Obama’s team last night made the best of a dismal job.

Syria is a classic example of what I call TSOP: The Shrek/Onion Paradigm. Issues are like onions are like ogres: they have layers. Look at some of Syria’s layers, in ascending order of abstractness. Continue reading

Syria: What Would Neville Do?

Munich PactAdvocates of American military action in Syria have – with a predictable lack of both creativity and historic relevance – invoked the memory of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who announced the achievement of “peace in our time” after negotiating a deal that gave Hitler a piece of Czechoslovakia.  Chamberlain is regularly cited by hawks thirsty for action. Continue reading

FDR To Speechwriter On Leadership

pwEditor’s Note The public debate over whether the United States Congress will buck public sentiment and approve a use-of -force resolution in Syria — or whether the potential failure of that resolution would even keep the president from upholding the “values that define us” through military intervention — is expected to continue into next week when the Congress reconvenes from its summer recess.

During the interlude between this week’s special congressional hearings and next week’s impending votes, this FDR quote from 1937 about leaders moving forward without great support seemed timely: Continue reading