By: Coral Christopher
Students and staff engaged with Bill Kusnet, former chief speechwriter for President Clinton, on Sept. 31.
Students at Missouri Baptist University participated in a video conference with President Bill Clinton’s former chief speechwriter Sept. 31 in the Dale Williams Fine Arts Center.
Students and staff gathered together with David Kusnet, former chief speechwriter for Clinton, during a speech communications class taught by Amanda Wokurka, instructor of communications and public relations, who arranged the learning opportunity for her students.
Following Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, Wokurka read the article, “How Bill Clinton Ad-Libs His Way to a Winning Speech,” written by Kusnet.
Impressed with the article, Wokurka researched additional information on Kusnet.
“I discovered that this was a very successful writer who had made speechwriting his career,” Wokurka said. “I immediately knew that he was someone that I wanted to speak to my students about his experience and the speechwriting process beyond the university walls.”
Kusnet agreed to participate in a Skype video conference with the university.
During the video conference, Kusnet advised students on speechwriting using his experience as chief speechwriter for Clinton from 1992-94, writing speeches for Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, consulting governmental agencies such as the Department of Labor and the Census Bureau and as principal and senior writer at Podesta Group.
Students were given specific examples of Clinton’s public speaking abilities that they can implement in their speeches.
"Bill Clinton's speeches worked well because he always brought the audience up in the beginning, then brought them down to calm them, then brought them up at the end to excite them,” Kusnet said.
After advising students how to excite a crowd and avoid verbal mistakes, Kusnet answered questions from students and staff members, offering more insight into working as the chief speechwriter for Clinton with specific stories that intrigued and entertained the audience.
Why was this video conference an excellent opportunity for students?
“It’s always important for students to hear from credible guest speakers,” Wokurka said. “This was a tremendous opportunity for the students to speak with a nationally respected expert in the art of public speaking,” Wokurka said. “I truly hope that they will carry this advice with them throughout their professional careers.”
Further interactions between Kusnet and students at MBU are possible, Wokurka said, allowing students to further their knowledge in public speaking.