Only in Washington: Students Get First-Hand Analysis of Presidential Speech
Students in professors Bob Lehrman and Eric Schnure's speechwriting course experienced an “only in Washington” classroom opportunity. They invited Matt Teper, principal White House speechwriter for Vice President Biden to speak on President Obama’s speech on Libya. “He was great,” said Lehrman, who in the 90’s had Teper’s job, writing for then Vice President Al Gore, where he worked with Schnure, a Gore speechwriter as well. "He answered our questions for an hour. Then he hung around during the speech and took part in the discussion afterwards.” Teper, who wrote speeches for a variety of nonprofits—and was the blogger for Rock the Vote in 2004 before winning the Biden job, hadn’t worked on the speech. But he’d seen the early drafts, and read it on his Blackberry before class in case there were things to point out. Teper seemed to be able to handle every question from the 34-member mix of grad and undergrad students, until SOC Senior Staci Cox asked him to tell the class about his “biggest mistake.” “Wow,” Teper said, “I mean, I’ve made hundreds.” Promising to get back to her, he took till the end of class before, true to his word, owning up to one. Teper's visit excited the class. “It was really remarkable,” said SPA Senior Jacqueline Grill ‘011. “To see someone so close [to our] age doing such amazing work.” "I don't think Matt was prepared to be treated like a rock star," Schnure said afterwards. "But he warmed up to it."