Politics, prose and the next US President

4th March 2015

News, Student news, Alumni news

A woman of great political savvy, a keen mind and the ability to get things done, was how alumnus Lissa Muscatine (PPE, 1977) described former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in her presentation to Wadham alumni at The House of Lords.

  • Lissa Muscatine (PPE, 1977)

    Lissa Muscatine (PPE, 1977)

  • Warden Ken Macdonald QC introduces Lissa Muscatine

    Warden Ken Macdonald QC introduces Lissa Muscatine

According to Lissa, Hillary Clinton is “the least known best known person in the world,” in that we know so little about her as an individual; how great she is with her staff, her raucous laugh, her hard working and pragmatic nature, strong faith and her sense of social justice. Lissa described routine 3am meetings around Hilary’s dining room table during the Democratic Party leadership campaign in 2008 – 3am because she knew that was the only time she could get people together.

At an evening reception in the Cholmondeley Room at the House of Lords, hosted by Wadham College Warden Ken Macdonald QC, Lissa Muscatine was speaking to some 250 Wadham alumni and friends, ranging from politics students to Old Members who matriculated prior to 1950.

  • Audience questions

    Audience questions

  • Bradley Graham

    Journalist and author Bradley Graham, co-owner of the iconic Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington

“I do expect Hillary to run in the next Presidential election” said Lissa, but, she pointed out, that there is a lot of campaigning ahead. A combination of a strong Republican media and powerful gender politics in the US mean Hillary Clinton’s campaign team has their work cut out for them.

Describing her own path to becoming Director of Speechwriting in the Obama Administration and Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Lissa outlined her fifteen year career in journalism, at which point she became “restless”. When Bill Clinton was elected in the 1990s she thought that speechwriting at the White House might be her next step.

Lissa explained: “I was clueless enough to think that I could be taken on having never written a speech!” But after an intensive application process, during which she learned that she was pregnant with twins, Lissa got the job. She discovered years later that during an internal discussion at the White House there had been fierce discussion about whether, pregnant with twins, she should be employed. Hillary Clinton had stepped in saying she wanted the best person for the job and that the White House should ‘make it work’, adding that if they couldn’t make it work in the White House, they shouldn’t expect people in other businesses to make it work for their employees. “This goes some way to explaining my loyalty to her,” remarked Lissa.
A lively question and answer session covered how much gender politics effects the way speeches are written, the point at which speech writers get involved in the policy process, the pressure on speech-writers to come up with a ‘killer sound-bite’ and the importance of online communications and social media in campaigning today.  

Lissa Muscatine and her husband, journalist and author Bradley Graham, co-own the iconic Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC. During her visit to the UK, Lissa is also speaking to students at Wadham College Human Rights Forum on Wednesday 4 March.

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