Legendary speechwriter Richard N. Goodwin proved the power of words


Words.

They are not just a collection of letters. These are not just a series of sentences. It’s not just a series of paragraphs.

No, they are so much more.

I have always believed that the purpose of words and, for that matter, of writing, is to get people to action.

Richard N. Goodwin was a master of words. He passed away on May 20, but the words he wrote for presidents and politicians will live on for years to come.

Goodwin, as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s speechwriter, was called upon to write a speech after civil rights protesters were brutally beaten by law enforcement officials on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma , Alabama, in 1965.. President Johnson delivered a speech at a joint session of Congress on March 15, 1965.

What was so urgent and desperately needed at this time were words that would not only explain what had happened and heal the wounds, but call the country, for the very first time, to change its soul. .

Here are the words Goodwin wrote at the time:

“Our mission is both the oldest and the most fundamental in this country; to repair evil, to do justice, to serve man. What happened in Selma is part of a much larger movement that reaches every section and every state of America. It is the effect of negroes to secure the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just black people, but truly all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we will win.

I watched this speech on television when I was a freshman at George Washington University. I remember the impact of those words. When LBJ finished with these words – “And we will overcome” – you could feel that the world would not stay the same. Something better would happen.

Months later, Johnson enacted the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. There would no longer be massive discrimination and barriers to voting. No voting taxes or literacy tests.

A year later, Goodwin wrote down words spoken by Robert Kennedy in South Africa. The topic was apartheid, but the aim was to remind each of us that we have the power to do so much good:

“Every time a man defends an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or tackles injustices, he sends a small wave of hope, and crosses himself from a million centers of energy and daring different, these ripples build a current that can sweep away the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

What grandiose and inspiring words. Apartheid has fallen in South Africa. Who can say that these words did not contribute to his demise?

Words can also be used for the purpose of reconciliation.

The Washington Post obituary for Goodwin highlights another example. In 2000, Al goreAlbert (Al) Arnold Gore All Democrats Must Compromise To Pass Economic Plans Just Like In 1993 Amy Coney Barrett Taints Supreme Court Voter Fraud Allegations Trump Pose Mid-Term GOP Risks MORE lost a presidential election. The case went to the Supreme Court. Even today, this decision is called into question; for millions of people, the decision was not only unfair, it was totally wrong.

Goodwin, for Gore, sought to unify the country with these words: “Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we come together and unite when the contest is over. While we still hold and do not give in to our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than we owe a political party. This is America, and we put the country before the party; we will stand together behind our new president.

Today we rarely, if at all, hear or read words as Goodwin wrote. Instead, we get bitter, rude and ugly words from politicians of all stripes and offices. We get tweets – not thoughts made up of meaningful sentences, but abridged, unrefined emotions that do not enlighten but annoy and provoke.

These feelings are meant to create bad feelings and allow destructive and dangerous inclinations.

When words are used in this way, we all ultimately suffer and are permanently hurt.

Words are not to be used to divide and profane, but to uplift and inspire.

Why are words today only used to damage and destroy? Words can be beautiful. They can lead to noble thoughts and, above all, to noble deeds.

Mark Plotkin is a BBC contributor on US politics. Previously, he was a political analyst for WAMU-FM, the NPR Washington branch, and for WTOP-FM, the Washington news radio station. He is the recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.

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