You already know that the two main industries of Washington are government and lobbying (somehow intertwined). But there is one that also has its hazards: speechmaking. According to what I read, a journalist doesn't make money by writing. He only writes to get on TV for something called the recognition factor. (Nobody reads bylines.) Once this takes place he's asked to give speeches for money, which brings in the real bread and butter. Congressmen and senators are allowed to make speeches for money, but if the fee is too much the journalists will tell on them. The media don't like anyone sitting on their turf. I've spoken to Lionel Portant, the columnist and media star, and Senator Pod, and they have told me about some of the speaker's pitfalls.
Lionel is especially upset because an old friend died and the widow asked Lionel, who is the most famous person she knows, to give the eulogy. I would like to say that Lionel was most upset about the death of his old friend but there were other factors.
1. He had to give the speech for free.
2. His old friend lived and died in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Lionel was giving a $15,000 speech to the Meat Packers convention in Athens, Georgia, when the widow called.
3. He took six airplanes, with long stopovers, three per country and rented cars in Georgia and Alberta. To his credit he managed to write a knockout eulogy for a man who was one of the most outstanding citizens in Medicine Hat.
4. The last plane, a six-passenger Cessna (he sat beside the pilot) didn't arrive precisely on time because of buffeting winds.
5. When he finally met the widow in the church, she said. "You're late and the mayor has already spoken. So please make it short."
The experience has made Lionel bitter, and he gave me some pointers about his trade.
Use the same speech, whether you are talking to the Knights of Columbus in Boston or the B'nai B'rith in the San Fernando Valley.
Always ask, "What's the fee?"
Find out when the ceremonies are to begin, and arrive five minutes before. Otherwise you'll hang around for an hour. Speak before they eat. Then you leave them to their festivities, go upstairs to your hotel suite, order room service at their expense, and watch C-Span.
But not everyone is as fortunate as Lionel in arranging their speechmaking to suit their needs. Senator Pod was specifically asked to speak on the deregulation of coastal shipping by the Port Authorities in the northeast. He and his assistants worked on a 20-pager, not a line without those laws and loopholes that Port Authorities live and die for.
As soon as he walked in the room he knew he was in trouble. There were a thousand people gathered and each table bore four bottles -- whisky, gin, vodka and rum. The crowd was already pretty relaxed. Senator Pod saw someone's sock fly in the direction of the head table. He also saw that he was the last speaker. Saving the best for the last, he mused. About midnight, after coffee, Gaylord Corn and Joe Needle were asked to stand up and receive a big hand for organizing the very successful Hawaiian luau cookout. Mrs. Needle and Mrs. Corn were cheered for appearing in grass skirts, and "dancing like real Hawaiians." Next the incoming president of the Port Authorities was introduced and gave a long speech saying that he'd try to do as fine a job as his predecessor and was already thinking about a Parisian theme.
Meanwhile, Senator Pod was clutching his 20-page zinger concerning the deregulation of Maritime Shipping, which the Port Authorities had specifically requested. The gentleman who was supposed to introduce him looked at the audience, now more rambunctious than relaxed, looked at the Senator's speech and advised:
"Forget about your text. Just make a few jokes about some of the local fellows in the room."
But Pod decided on revenge. "I don't know anyone in the room," he said. And then he put his head down, never looking at the audience and read every word of his speech. He chained them to their seats for an hour.
Well, Beverly, wife of has made some forays into speechmaking because of book promotion, but I don't get the same treatment as Henry Kissinger. Nevertheless, I have developed my own ground rules.
Don't talk about your early life in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, to a group of computer engineers from Liverpool, England.
If you speak to a women's group at lunch, they usually offer you a glass of sweet white wine. Don't accept.
If they ask you for the subject of your speech, be vague. Mix a heartbreaking medical problem (not necessarily true) with something about life in Washington and the older ladies won't wander about the room so much while you are still on the podium.
If you're giving a speech with four other authors it's best to speak first.
Your best friend,