Beyond Vassar

Writing for the White House

By Amy Boggs ’07

This past January, with President Bush’s Address to the Nation on his new strategy for Iraq and the State of the Union only weeks apart, the White House speechwriters split into teams. Marc Thiessen ’89 led those preparing the State of the Union. Writing one of the most important speeches the President delivers is a meticulous process, involving meeting with President Bush to outline the speech and later to edit it line by line. This is a particular challenge because every word has to be perfect. “The President is a very strict and very tough editor — the toughest I’ve ever worked for,” Thiessen said.

At Vassar, Thiessen spent a summer as an intern in President Reagan’s White House. “That was when I got the dream of one day being a presidential speechwriter,” he said. The political science major went on to a political consulting firm in Washington, DC, and then served as spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms. He was hired in 2001 to serve as chief speechwriter for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and in three years he logged more than 250,000 miles, visiting 40 countries. Thiessen’s next move was to the White House to help during the President’s re-election campaign. He was promoted to his current position as deputy assistant to the President and deputy director of speechwriting in September 2006.

One of Thiessen’s first tasks was to draft President Bush’s speech revealing the existence of a network of secret detention facilities run by the CIA. “I spent more than a month working in a secure room at the National Security Council. Until the President delivered it, the content of that speech was the most highly classified information in the U.S. government.” Despite the long hours and high-profile pressure, Thiessen relishes his job. “If you’re going to be a speechwriter, there is nothing like the White House,” he said. “Writing for the President is the greatest honor of my life.”