The Power of a Speech (Washington Post Letter to the Editor)

Originally published August 7, 2015 in The Washington Post

As a foreign policy professional who graduated from American University, I take special pride in President Obama’s decision in speaking about Iran to channel John F. Kennedy’s 1963 AU commencement speech on peace [“Obama’s speech on Iran at AU will echo Kennedy’s words there in 1963,” news, Aug. 5]. We are much accustomed to speech-making on domestic matters, but less so on the government-to-government world of foreign policy. However, both AU speeches demonstrate the power of a well-timed speech to affect the course of international relations by framing the debate over key foreign policy questions, changing the public atmosphere and reaching a wide audience at home and abroad.
As we consider the many significant foreign policy questions on our plates today, these speeches reaffirm a key understanding of foreign policy makers: International relations are often as much about speaking to people as it is about engaging with governments.


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