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Alchemists Behind Obama’s Spiritful Speeches

Posted February. 20, 2008 06:01,   


Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.`s "I Have a Dream (1963)" and John F. Kennedy`s Inaugural Speech (1961) are America’s most cherished historic speeches.

Supporters of Barack Obama, who want him to become the first U.S. black president, are enthusiastic about his campaign messages of “change and hope.” They say the Illinois senator’s speeches are striking a cord with the public, impressing them even more than Martin Luther King’s and JKF’s combined.

Hillary Clinton, who has engaged in a fierce battle with Obama for the Democratic Party nomination, raised suspicion over the authenticity and originality of Obama’s acclaimed speeches, on Monday.

The Clinton camp accused Obama of committing plagiarism after discovering that the senator’s speech in Milwaukee on Saturday was no different from a speech given by Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, two years ago.

▽ War of Words

On a campaign rally on Saturday, Obama expressed discontent and dissatisfaction with Clinton’s attacks on him, criticizing him of “displaying poetic phrases but little else.”

In an excited tone, he told the public, “Don’t tell me words don’t matter! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words! ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words! ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words, just speeches!”

The irony is that the phrases Obama used closely echoed a passage from a speech that Deval Patrick, his political ally and confident, and now the Massachusetts governor, used at a campaign rally when he was running for that office in 2006.

The Clinton camp circulated a pair of YouTube links of the two speeches on Sunday, raising suspicions over Obama’s role in his campaign speeches. They hope to raise the possibility that Obama may have plagiarized Patrick`s speeches.

Faced with growing suspicion, Obama tried to remove any doubt, saying, “I have written two books. The Massachusetts governor is my friend. We share similar views and talk and trade good lines all the time.”

The Obama campaign immediately struck back at Clinton, saying, "Clinton also freely borrows rhetoric from Obama such as ‘Yes, we can,’ but it doesn’t matter.”

▽ Obama’s Speech Writers

Obama’s campaign speeches are written by three skillful young writers. Jon Favreau (26) is the most experienced senior staff writer who joined Obama’s camp in 2004. Back then, he handled small jobs, putting together bundles of speeches for candidates on Sen. John Kerry’s campaign. Obama spotted Favreau and recruited him to his campaign.

“I act like major league star player Ted Williams’s batting coach,” Mr. Favreau said. But even Ted Williams needed a little help with his swing. The same goes with Obama as he needs an advisor to give him advice about his problems.”

Adam Frankel, like 26-year-old Favreau, worked on the memoirs of Ted Sorensen, who was in charge for JFK’s speeches. Another member Ben Rhodes, a 30-year-old, is a gifted writer who worked on the 9/11 commission`s report.

“We could create splendid and excellent speeches for Obama, but it is the candidate himself who can touch on the most striking points with the themes and language that reflect the candidate`s voice,” said Favreau.