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Script for Speech

Much has been made of the fact that large parts of Sarah Palin’s speech were already pre-written before she was even chosen as the VP candidate. According to the Washington Post:

Not anticipating that McCain would choose a woman as his running mate, the speech that was prepared in advance was “very masculine,” according to campaign manager Rick Davis, and “we had to start from scratch.”

It is common in today’s political landscape for speech writers to pen most of the words in a politician’s speeches — both for Republicans and Democrats. What always irks me is all the commentary about the speeches. The commentators — on all sides of the political spectrum — are saying how much Palin’s speech reveals about her. But are we really learning much about Palin from the speech if she didn’t write a large chunk of it?

If the words are written by others, what exactly does a speech tell us? Why do we pretend as though the words are really coming from the particular politician? If the skill is the ability to read convincingly from the teleprompter, or to deliver the lines with gusto and confidence, then isn’t this more suited for an actor or actress?

One thing that always irks me is when quotes from movies are attributed to particular actors, as if Robert DeNiro or Julia Roberts originated a particular line in the same way that Shakespeare or Einstein created their own words. We all know that actors and actresses are just vessels for delivering the words of others. We wouldn’t attribute quotes to the person who read a particular line for an audio book on CD. Why do we do so when an actor or actress delivers a line in a movie? Or when a singer sings a song written by another?

Suppose we found out that Lincoln had a speech writer write the Gettysburg Address. Would our opinion of him change if we learned that his eloquent words were not really his own, and that he merely delivered the lines in a particularly compelling way?

Originally Posted at Concurring Opinions

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum and International Privacy + Security Forum, annual events designed for seasoned professionals.

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