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Confessions of a Memorial Day speechwriter

In a past life, I was one of those paid staffers that cranked out news releases for elected politicians.  I also dabbled in speech writing.

Memorial Day was therefore a big thing for me, a holiday weekend I dreaded at least as much as I looked forward to it.

My speeches themselves were pretty successful.  At least the people who gave them liked them and said the audience seemed to as well.  I tried to keep things brief and fell back on the usual formula:  mention General John A. Logan's original order creating the holiday, maybe quote a poem about loss, and add some personal items for the person giving the speech.

A lot of writing is pretty mechanical in that sense, which I why I feel journalism should be treated as a skilled trade.  In any event, making a job out of anything takes away some of the awe and mystery.

Since those days, I try to contemplate the holidays more, and I admit that knowing people killed in the present war is part of that. 

The other thing I learned from that time is that people who "get" Memorial Day don't really need any persuasion while those who don't, probably aren't going to be converted by a speech (or a blog post).

Still, I couldn't let this weekend pass without pointing out that it's about more than good weather and time away from work.



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