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How to Be an Ethical Speechwriter

I HATE TALKING ABOUT ETHICS IN COMMUNICATION, because I either come off as crusty, or naive.

But George Washington University's new Project on Ethics in Political Communication came calling. In this interview, I advise ethics-minded communicators to seek out clients "who use words aggressively, not defensively: To bring people together and stir their imaginations, to clarify the complex, to inspire constructive action. Rather than to confuse perceptions of reality, repulse investigations, to fog up the lens."

But ethics, I said, isn't the central challenge in speechwrtng: "It's courage. The courage to be compelling, to advance a bold idea or to say something familiar in a fresh way. To show one's humanity, and to connect."

Here's what else I said. —DM

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