"When giving a good speech, one must always be telling a story." This episode of the #MillenniumLive podcast proves that words can have a large impact. Terry Szuplat is a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, and has some thoughtful insight into the days spent writing for the President. In this exclusive interview with Alex, Terry explores speechwriting and shares some of his defining moments during the Obama administration.
Terry offers 25 years of experience providing leaders in government, business, philanthropy, and entertainment with strategic communications and speechwriting support to inspire audiences in the United States and around the world.
One of President Barack Obama’s longest-serving speechwriters, from 2009 to 2017, Terry helped craft nearly 500 speeches on global security, international economics, U.S. foreign and defense policy, entrepreneurship, development, and human rights. As a Special Assistant to the President, and Senior Director of Speechwriting at the National Security Council staff, he joined President Obama on visits to more than 40 countries.
While serving as the deputy director of the White House Speechwriting Office in the West Wing during President Obama’s second term, Terry helped oversee and edit the work of a team of speechwriters, assisted with State of the Union addresses, and produced innovative content to reach new audiences through social media.
Since leaving the White House, Terry’s personal essays have appeared in leading publications. In “The Endless Recovery From the Endless War,” he chronicled the story of Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, which former President Barack Obama called “a moving portrait…[and] an honest tribute to all those wounded warriors and families who give so much to our country.”
Terry’s commentaries have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Fox News, POLITICO Magazine, CTV News, CBC News, Minnesota Public Radio, the Dole Institute of Politics, the Better Angels podcast, and the Bipodisan podcast.
He has discussed the role of presidential rhetoric in American politics with students at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, the United States Military Academy at West Point, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, The George Washington University, American University, the Sine Institute of Policy and Politics, the University of California in Los Angeles, and the Summer School of Rhetoric in Finland.
Before the White House, Terry worked as a freelance consultant for seven years providing speechwriting support to corporate, political, and philanthropic clients. He served on the speechwriting team at the 2004 and 2008 Democratic National Conventions.
At the age of 25, Terry was appointed Director of Speechwriting to Secretary of Defense William Cohen, managing a staff of four writers from 1998 to 2001 and earning the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. A professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee from 2001 to 2002, he previously served on the staff of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, chaired by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, from 1995 to 1997.
Terry was a member of the Biden for President National Finance Committee and an advisor to National Security Action, dedicated to restoring principled American leadership at home and abroad. He serves as a board member of Legacies of War, which advocates for the removal of unexploded U.S. bombs from Laos. A graduate of American University, he grew up in Falmouth, Massachusetts and now lives outside Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children.