Veteran political author/consultant to examine presidential speech writing

Lisa Eikenburg

With the U.S. presidential election drawing ever-so-close, the timing could not have been better for Fredonia to host a lecture/discussion by Dr. Craig R. Smith, a skilled political researcher and commentator, sought-after speech writer and author, on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 5 p.m., at Williams Center Room 204.


“Communication is fundamental to elections – candidates strategically use communication to persuade the electorate to support their candidacy, encourage colleagues to adopt public policy positions and use the mass media to take issues public and disseminate their message,” said Assistant Professor Angela McGowan of the Department of Communication.

Dr. Smith, who will present “Presidential Speech Writing: Its History, Constraints and Strategic Usage in the 2016 Presidential Election,” is uniquely qualified to provide insight into the political process, according to Dr. McGowan. “His experiences and understanding of first amendment rights position him to teach the Fredonia community how to facilitate informed discussions and debates on all sides of the issues.”

In a career alternating between politics and academia, Smith worked for or served as a consultant to major political leaders, giving him a front-row seat for some of the most important events of the late 20th century. Smith was a full-time speech writer for President Gerald Ford and a consultant to President George H.W. Bush and California Governor Pete Wilson. He also met Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy.

Smith has served as a consultant to CBS News for convention, election night and inaugural coverage. Earlier this year, he appeared on C-SPAN discussing his experiences as a presidential speech writer. Click on this link to watch his interview.

At California State University – Long Beach, where he is Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies, Smith formerly directed its Center for First Amendment Studies. In this role, he worked with other faculty to educate students about their first amendment heritage and its impact on new technologies. In 1983, he founded the Freedom of Expression Foundation in Washington, D.C., and remains its director. Smith previously taught at San Diego State University, the University of Virginia and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Smith has written 16 books and over 60 scholarly articles and book chapters and regularly contributes editorials to the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other leading newspapers. He was the recipient of the Douglas W. Ehninger Award for lifetime achievement in rhetorical scholarship by the National Communication Association, as well as two campus awards, Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Scholarship, at CSU-LB.

In addition to his campus-wide presentation, which is free and open to the public, Smith will sign copies of his 2014 memoir, “Confessions of a Presidential Speech Writer,” on Thursday, Oct. 6, 10 to 11:30 a.m., at the campus bookstore in University Commons.

Smith’s lecture is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Fredonia’s ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Committee and departments of Communication, and Politics and International Affairs. Additional information about the lecture or speaker is available by contacting McGowan at

Future events for the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge include:

• Oct. 4 and 9 – Presidential debate televised at 9 p.m. in the Williams Center Multipurpose Room

• Oct. 19 – Presidential debate televised at 9 p.m. in Williams Center Room S204

• Oct. 27 – “Meet the Candidates” – local government debate hosted by the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters at 7 p.m., at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House and televised in Williams Center Room S204

• Nov. 8 – Election Day with transportation available for students to go to the polling places.

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