VICKY RIDEOUT (DIRECTOR OF SPEECHWRITING, 2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION): The first time I heard about him was when Jack Corrigan walked into my office and said, Im thinking about taking a chance with the keynote on this young guy out of Chicago.


VICKY RIDEOUT: It was pretty unusual to have a two term state senator, who was just a candidate for the U.S. Senate, be the keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention.

JOHN KUPPER (ADVISOR, 2004 OBAMA U.S. SENATE CAMPAIGN): In 2004, there was an open U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. We showed some early focus groups descriptions of Obama, who nobody had heard of at that point, and they thought, well, this guy sounds pretty interesting. Then we showed them actual footage that we had shot of Obama delivering this message, and the result was overwhelming. It gave us a sense that if we were able to get him on television, if he was able to speak to people in the campaign, there would be a very positive response.

JACK CORRIGAN (MANAGER, 2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION): The role of the keynote can be a rallying cry for the entire party.

ARCHIVAL (1984):GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Maybe Mr. President, you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or a missile we couldnt afford to use!

JACK CORRIGAN: Women are obviously important, African-Americans are important. I had not seen any videos of the guy, so I wasnt really thinking about him very much until we started to scour for ways to present the party and everything it stands for.

JOHN KUPPER: Generally when he has a big speech to write, he holes himself away and you dont hear from him for a couple of days. All of us were waiting to see what the first draft would look like. After a number of days, we did receive a fax that came in at 24 minutes. The Kerry people had offered him ten. I would make the cuts and send them off, and within a day or two, the drafts would come back with most of the cuts restored. And at the same time, his campaign was negotiating with the Kerry people to try to expand that time limit.

ARCHIVAL (DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, 2004):PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Tonight is a particular honor for me because lets face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN (SPEECH COACH, 2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION): It was my understanding hed had very little experience with a teleprompter. The two errors that people make are, it looks like youre at a tennis match you read from here, then you read from here or its trying to look like youre not looking at the screens. Youre looking at the screen out of the corner of your eye which, of course, looks extremely silly. So its that idea of having confidence, that, people dont know Im looking at the screens Im looking at them.

VICKY RIDEOUT: Kinda late in the game, the Kerry people said, Weve got a line or two in Obamas speech that we need to have taken out. It was something about, Were not red states and blue states, were the United States of America.

JOHN KUPPER: They said, you know, Thats a message that Senator Kerry is going to be delivering, so maybe you dont need to deliver it. But Barack was adamant.

VICKY RIDEOUT: It was not great that I had to ask him. But, we found a good way to rewrite that section.

ARCHIVAL (DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, 2004):PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states. Red states for Republicans. Blue states for Democrats.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: The hardest thing is splitting the difference between the home and the hall. Am I performing for the 16,000 people in front of me, or am I a little more concerned about the 40 to 60 million people that may be watching me on TV? A technique I started implementing many years ago was something called surfing the applause. The audience at home can still hear you, even though the audience in the hall is applauding wildly.


MICHAEL SHEEHAN: You sort of talk over it.

ARCHIVAL (DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, 2004):PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: they imagined me going to the best schools

MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Its a little tricky to do, and it takes an immense amount of control by the speaker.

ARCHIVAL (DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, 2004):PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!

VICKY RIDEOUT: I went out to listen to the speech to make sure nothing went wrong, you know. I had seen that speech on paper like a hundred times, but when he delivered it in that hall, I just thought, my God, were going to have a black President in my lifetime. I dont think anybody thought it was going to happen four years later.

ARCHIVAL (DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, 2004):PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And this country will reclaim its promise and out of this long political darkness, a brighter day will come. Thank you very much everybody. God bless you.

VICKY RIDEOUT: In the 2004 convention, we had more than 250 different speeches that occurred from the podium. Having a speech-writing team and making sure theres consistency and everybodys on message is really an important task. And it really was driven home to me when I saw Chris Christies keynote speech to the 2012 Republican Convention. Ann Romney, the candidates wife, gets up and gives a speech that is all about love.

ARCHIVAL (REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION, 2012):ANN ROMNEY: Tonight, I want to talk to you about love.

VICKY RIDEOUT: And immediately after her speech, Chris Christie got up and said:

ARCHIVAL (REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION, 2012):GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Tonight, were gonna choose respect over love.

VICKY RIDEOUT: He talked mainly about himself, and he didnt even mention Mitt Romney until he was least two thirds of the way through his speech.

ARCHIVAL (FOX NEWS, 2012):CHRIS WALLACE: Personally I thought it was one of the most off-key keynote speeches Ive ever heard

JACK CORRIGAN: There hasnt been a contested convention after the first ballot since 1952. The convention has become less suspenseful. Its harder to make that interesting without very dynamic speakers.


ARCHIVAL (JFK LIBRARY, 1980):SENATOR TED KENNEDY: The work goes on. The cause endures.

ARCHIVAL (CSPAN, 2000):COLIN POWELL: Some call it compassionate conservatism. To me, its just caring about people.

VICKY RIDEOUT: As much as people think of conventions as maybe being a boring thing from the past, theyre still really important. You want to make sure youre making the most of any convention.