The Young Speechwriter Who Captured Rice's Voice
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Christian D. Brose's rise to the heights of Washington speechwriting could have been scripted in Hollywood.
A year ago, Brose was the most junior speechwriter at the State Department. When Condoleezza Rice was nominated to be secretary of state after the 2004 election, the then-national security adviser summoned the State Department speechwriting team to the White House for a discussion of her confirmation hearings.
The team went over, not sure they would hold their jobs for much longer. To their surprise, they were ushered into the White House situation room. The conversation meandered and seemed uninspired, Rice aides said, until the 25-year-old Brose shyly raised his hand and offered a suggestion that, for Rice, crystallized her foreign policy themes.
"Who is that young red-haired kid?" Rice asked one of her senior advisers, Jim Wilkinson, as they left the room. "Let's keep an eye on him."
A star was born.
Brose, now 26, was recently named Rice's chief speechwriter. He is responsible for many of the major speeches she has delivered around the world to advance the administration's message of spreading democracy, earning the admiration of Rice's top aides.
"Chris can write her voice better than anyone," Wilkinson said. "He's become one of her closest advisers on policy and communications."
Another fan is Elizabeth Cheney, a principal deputy assistant secretary of state and key participant in the administration's democracy campaign. "Speechwriting is one of the hardest jobs in Washington. Chris is one of the best," she said, praising his "mastery of the subject matter" and his "intellectual curiosity."
Rice considers Brose such an asset that she often brings him along when she travels overseas. Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell's speechwriters never traveled with him, in part because the speeches were completed well before departure. But Rice likes Brose at her side so they can work together to shape and sharpen the speeches until right before she delivers them. A speech in Brazil was altered because of a conversation Rice had on the airport tarmac when she landed in Brasilia, and Rice's signature democracy speech, given in Cairo last June, was tweaked to add language Rice had spontaneously used at a news conference a few hours before the speech.
Last week, the night before leaving with Rice on a 10-day swing through Latin America and Asia, Brose said he had not yet shown her the first draft of a speech she is scheduled to deliver tomorrow in Jakarta. He had gotten some ideas and thoughts from Rice and consulted with experts on Southeast Asia at the State Department, but he said the real work would only begin during the long hours of flying.
"She trusts me to do that first draft with the vision she's given me," he said.
Brose is likable and self-effacing, devoid of the self-promotion that often comes with power in Washington. A former collegiate swimmer and avid bicyclist, the lanky Brose still says that "one of my best jobs" was being a bike messenger because he could tool around on his wheels 10 hours a day. He still bikes to work from the apartment in Adams Morgan that he shares with his wife, Molly, a painter and jewelry designer. Brose often writes Rice's speeches in his wife's studio, "with a pot of coffee at 2 a.m."