Ever the writer, Obama took hands-on role in preparing big speech
DENVER – Democrat Barack Obama spent long hours crafting the speech in which he will make history by formally accepting his party’s presidential nomination.
The White House contender looked to past nominee acceptance speeches for ideas, including those of Bill Clinton in 1992, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and John F. Kennedy in 1960, according to Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod.
Obama worked largely by himself on the first draft, writing it out long-hand on legal pads and then typing it into a computer for review by his top aides.
Obama, the first black presidential nominee of a major U.S. party, will speak before 75,000 people at the huge Invesco football stadium in Denver. His speech coincides with the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Illinois senator, who is running neck-and-neck with Republican John McCain, will lay out his vision for change in his speech and also hopes to tie in his life story as the son of a single-mother to the struggles faced by ordinary Americans.
But Obama, known for his lofty rhetoric, may also show a scrappier side to himself in going after McCain more aggressively, in a nod to some Democrats who feel that up to now his attacks have been too tepid.
“I think he’s going to make a case about the choices people face. I mean he’s said he’ll make a respectful argument but I don’t think he’ll shy away from making those contrasts where there appropriate,” Axelrod told reporters as the candidate traveled to Denver on Wednesday.
Obama has said his upcoming speech may be more “workman-like” than the 2004 convention speech he gave in Boston that catapulted him to fame.
But it probably won’t lack the broad sweep that marks many of Obama’s speeches, including some he has delivered on topics from the war in Iraq to the U.S. financial crisis.
While many White House contenders — as well as U.S. presidents — rely on teams of speechwriters to prepare the early drafts of important address, Obama takes a much more hands-on approach.
As the author of two bestselling books, he is easily the best speechwriter on the campaign, Axelrod said.
“He knows what he wants to say and he generally says it better than anybody else would,” the Obama adviser said.
But Obama needs quiet to do his best work and during his time as an Illinois state senator, he sometimes had to resort to ducking into the men’s room to write. Over the past week, he worked late into the night at a Chicago hotel room.