Poets of the Podium: The Art of Speechwriting

Date(s) - 04/03/18
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm

Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Hosted by
Chicago Council


Poets of the Podium: The Art of Speechwriting

Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Tuesday 04/03/18 Doors open: 5:15 pm Event: 5:30 pm – 7:00

David Litt, Author; Writer and Producer, Funny or Die; Former Speechwriter to President Barack Obama. Moderated by Henry Bienen, President, the Poetry Foundation.


Campaign rallies, inaugural addresses, states of the union, declarations of war: speeches have provided defining moments in the United States’ history. In most cases, addresses to the nation are delicately crafted, behind the scenes, by expert speechwriters. Through the careful selection of words, and by skillfully employing the rhythm and sound of language, these poets of the podium allow the nation’s leaders to reassure and mobilize the public, through the power of the spoken word. What are the ingredients, and what is the process, for developing a major speech? In the age of social media, with instant communications and short attention spans, does political oratory still resonate as it once did?

Copies of David Litt’s new book Thanks Obama! My Hopey, Changey White House Years will be available for sale and signing after the program from the Book Cellar.


David Litt

Author; Writer and Producer, Funny or Die; Former Speechwriter to President Barack Obama

David Litt entered the White House in 2011 and left in 2016 as a special assistant to the president and senior presidential speechwriter. Described as the “comic muse for the president,” David was the lead writer on four White House Correspondents’ Dinner presentations and has contributed jokes to President Obama’s speeches since 2009. He is currently the head writer/producer for Funny or Die’s office in Washington, DC. David has also written for The Onion, osmopolitan, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and the New York Times.


Henry Bienen


Henry Bienen

President, the Poetry Foundation

Henry Bienen is the president of the Poetry Foundation. Bienen served as Northwestern University’s president from 1995 – 2009 and currently serves as president emeritus of Northwestern University. Previously he was the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Bienen earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from Cornell University in 1960 and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Chicago.