The first black speechwriter for a United States president considers the substance and structure of a speech that still resonates 50 years later.
Terry Edmonds is the former chief speechwriter for President Bill Clinton. In a career spanning more than 40 years, he has experience in nearly every aspect of executive level communications and public affairs. He has written speeches for presidential candidates, corporate CEOs, nonprofit leaders and University presidents.
Terry also spent four years as a chief speechwriter in the Obama Administration – first as speechwriter for the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which directs the Federal government’s national service programs, including AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America. And later as senior advisor and speechwriter for NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden.
He has also written for top executives at IBM, Columbia University, Time Warner Inc, AARP and the National Urban League.
Terry served as Assistant to the President and Director of Speechwriting during the final term of President William Jefferson Clinton. In that capacity he was responsible for the production of all the President’s domestic policy speeches, including the issues of education, transportation, race relations, welfare reform, health care reform, the State of the Union and the federal budget. Prior to assuming the leadership of the White House speechwriting office and beginning in 1995, Mr. Edmonds served as Deputy Director of Speechwriting for the President. He came to the White House after two years as Deputy Director of Speechwriting for HHS Secretary, Donna Shalala. He also served as a chief speechwriter for Senator John Kerry during the Senator’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Upon graduation from Baltimore’s Morgan State University in 1973, Mr. Edmonds embarked on a career in public affairs, marketing, writing and management that has included experiences in advertising, public service, politics and corporate communications. He has worked as a public relations specialist with the Maryland Mass Transit Administration. He was the first public relations director for the Baltimore ad firm, Trahan, Burden and Charles; and he served as the first public relations director of the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. He has also served as Director of Communications for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and as Press Secretary for then Congressman, Kweisi Mfume.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Mr. Edmonds has always believed in giving something back to his community. Born and raised in the inner-city projects of Baltimore, he has consistently reached out to young people and given inspirational talks to dozens of audiences, including elementary, high school and college students. In recent years, he has lectured or delivered speeches to audiences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Dartmouth College, Auburn University, Cuyahoga Community College, Howard Community College, Southside Academy Middle School, Morgan State University, Baruch College, Hofstra University, the Jacksonville, Florida Urban League, the National Black Public Relations Society and the Nevada Governor Points of Light Awards, and the Clinton Foundation.
He has also taught a speechwriting class at Hofstra University where he is an Adjunct Professor.
In 2013, he was interviewed and became a part of The History Makers’ archive.