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  • DAVID LITT: I'll never forget the first speech

  • I wrote for the president where it was a speech he delivered

  • in Puerto Rico.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Buenos tardes.

  • [CROWD CHEERS]

  • DAVID LITT: I remember thinking how totally bizarre that was.

  • As a speechwriter, you're always recognizing that it's not

  • really my idea, right?

  • It's inspired by President Obama, but just the fact

  • that you can sit down and be part

  • of that is totally surreal.

  • And it never stops being surreal.

  • LAURA LING: You were just 24 years old when

  • you started at the White House.

  • How did that come about?

  • DAVID LITT: I did not mean to become a speechwriter.

  • I didn't really mean to go in to politics or anything like that.

  • I was on a plane and we had just begun our initial descent

  • and I was sort of channel surfing on the free airplane

  • cable.

  • I saw this candidate who I had heard of

  • but didn't know a lot about named Barack Obama.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They said-- they

  • said this day would never come.

  • [CROWD CHEERS]

  • DAVID LITT: By the time that speech was over,

  • I was like, never mind.

  • Whatever he's doing-- I want to be a part of that.

  • I was totally awestruck.

  • It was really one of those moments where,

  • like, by the time we hit the tarmac,

  • I was on a totally different life path.

  • And that doesn't happen a lot, but it was a heck of a speech.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You did this

  • because you believed so deeply in the most American of ideas--

  • that in the face of impossible odds,

  • people who love this country can change it.

  • [CROWD APPLAUDS]

  • LAURA LING: What are some of the biggest challenges in helping

  • to craft a speech for the most powerful person on the planet?

  • DAVID LITT: You have to realize how high the stakes are.

  • We would write speeches knowing that there

  • are people whose full-time job is to pick apart

  • every single word the president says

  • and sometimes just to take things out of context.

  • And that can be incredibly intimidating.

  • LAURA LING: How do you even get started working

  • on a speech for the president?

  • What's your process?

  • DAVID LITT: If I really didn't know what I wanted to write,

  • I would try saying it instead.

  • Speeches aren't meant to be read.

  • They're meant to be heard.

  • And so if I felt like I could start

  • to finish make that argument in my own words just talking

  • to myself, then I could go back and begin to shape it in a way

  • where it would make sense for the president.

  • LAURA LING: What have been your sources of inspiration

  • when you're going through this process?

  • DAVID LITT: Sometimes what I would

  • do is I would go on YouTube and pull up that video of that Iowa

  • speech from 2008 and hit play.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They said this day would never come.

  • [AUDIENCE CHEERS]

  • DAVID LITT: Rewatching those words

  • and feeling that sense of both power

  • and responsibility keeps you going

  • when you wonder whether it's all making a difference.

  • I worked on the Obama campaign in 2008

  • and all of my volunteers, when I left,

  • they took one of those hope posters

  • and on the back in cardboard they

  • all just signed their names.

  • And so I had a sort of face the other way

  • where the hope side was against the wall

  • so that I could see all the names.

  • It was just this reminder that what I was doing

  • was not just about my job.

  • It was not just even about the president.

  • It was about people in places like the one

  • where I had worked.

  • For me, really, all of my rituals

  • are about trying to recapture that feeling I had in 2008,

  • to put you back in that mindset when you're 21, 22 years old

  • and you're absolutely sure you can change the world,

  • and you're pretty sure you can do it tomorrow.

  • LAURA LING: You've worked on a number of White House

  • correspondent dinner speeches which

  • are known for highlighting the president's humor.

  • How has comedy been a tool for you

  • in terms of getting a political message out?

  • DAVID LITT: Well, one of the interesting things

  • over the last eight years is getting

  • people's attention has become harder and harder and harder.

  • I wrote some speeches on climate change that I'm very proud of,

  • but they didn't have a huge audience.

  • We did something with Luther, the anger translator,

  • and President Obama got really upset over climate change

  • deniers in Congress, and that had 40 million views

  • on Facebook.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Rising seas, more violent storms--

  • LUTHER: You got mosquitoes, sweaty people

  • on the train stinking it up.

  • [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]

  • It's just nasty.

  • DAVID LITT: Something that's funny

  • just gets people to pay attention.

  • It gets people engaged.

  • LAURA LING: President Obama has amazing comedic timing.

  • DAVID LITT: He really does.

  • The president can hold a pause for just the right amount

  • of time that there's a little bit of tension

  • and then cut it was a punch line.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Being president is never easy.

  • I still have to fix a broken immigration system,

  • issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran,

  • all while finding time to pray five times a day.

  • [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]

  • Which is strenuous.

  • DAVID LITT: Then there's also just moments

  • when you write something, whether it's

  • a joke or a more serious line of argument that breaks through

  • in some way and becomes part of this national conversation

  • around an issue.

  • And a lot of the time, that's a team effort,

  • but to be one part of that team-- it's a special thing.

  • LAURA LING: What have you loved most

  • about working with the president, President Obama?

  • DAVID LITT: Well, I think there is-- there's just something

  • extraordinary about working for somebody who

  • is such a good writer, such a good speaker,

  • and has the ability to just walk into a room

  • and create memories that everybody else is going

  • to remember for a lifetime.

  • And so you get to be part of all of these life-changing moments

  • in little ways and big ways.

  • And that is-- when I walk into a room, that doesn't happen.

  • So that was nice to get to play a small part in that.

  • LAURA LING: How do Hillary Clinton and Donald

  • Trump differ when it comes to giving political speeches?

  • Be sure to watch this episode of Seeker Daily to learn more.

  • Clinton is trying to reach out to younger voters who

  • may not be familiar with the Clinton legacy.

  • And this may take a little extra effort

  • than it would take Trump, who already

  • has an established television presence.

  • DAVID LITT: I think for somebody who is by her own admission

  • not a natural performer, she is trying to get better and better

  • and focus attention where it needs to be.

  • LAURA LING: Thanks for watching Seeker Stories.

  • Please subscribe for new videos every week.

DAVID LITT: I'll never forget the first speech

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Meet the Speechwriter Behind Obama's Best Jokes

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    胡嘉修 posted on 2017/02/15
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