Robert Lehrman

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Robert A. Lehrman is an American novelist, commentator, speechwriter, Democratic aide, and teacher.

Former White House Chief Speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore (1993–95), Lehrman has written six books including several award-winning novels, and thousands of speeches for Democratic politicians, corporate and nonprofit CEOs, and celebrities.[1] He is perhaps best known for his non-fiction book, The Political Speechwriter’s Companion: A Guide for Writers and Speakers,[2] a systematic look at the techniques and strategies of modern political speech.[1]

Professional Background[edit]

Lehrman frequently writes and speaks about politics and speech. He is a contributor to AOLNews, and has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, Christian Science Monitor and other periodicals.

A long-time Adjunct Professor at American University, Lehrman teaches public speaking and created AU’s course on political speechwriting which he co-teaches with Professor Eric Schnure.[3] Along with American University Professor Leonard Steinhorn, he co-founded the commentary site, PunditWire.

In 2010, American University named Lehrman its Adjunct Professor of the Year, one of only 5 all-university awards given by the school.[1]

Lehrman graduated from Tufts University, and received an MFA from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where he studied with Richard Yates and Kurt Vonnegut. After Iowa he taught at Muscatine (IA) Community College. He then worked as a campaign organizer and later speechwriter for Governor Dan Walker (D-IL).

He also worked as a speechwriter for Governor Hugh Carey (D-NY), then for the CEO and other officers of Texaco before moving to Washington DC where he worked for Senator Lloyd Bentsen, and Majority Whips William H. Gray and David Bonior before moving to the White House where he wrote over 250 speeches for Gore and edited about the same number, before beginning his own business, Lehrman Communications, in 1996.


Lehrman’s most recent book, The Political Speechwriter’s Companion (CQPress 2009), draws on almost two hundred examples taken mostly from American political speeches to demonstrate how one structure and what he calls the LAWS of political speech – language, anecdote, wit, and support – can be effective in almost any political setting. In chapters that include speeches and excerpts annotated to show how each technique works, Lehrman analyzes how to be effective, whether on the stump, on the floor, or in ceremonial speeches ranging from commencements to eulogies to keynotes. He presents an original way to close speeches that has been compared to what Alan Monroe did for the motivated sequence.[4]

The book has won praise from a wide and bipartisan assortment of politicians, journalists, and academics, including former Republican Senator from Maine William Cohen, who said of the book, said, “what Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style is to the written word, Bob Lehrman’s book is to the spoken one.”

From 1980 through 1993 Lehrman also wrote 4 novels, three for young adults and one for grownups. Those include:

  • Juggling - This novel, set in the 1960s about a high school soccer player and his first romance, became controversial because of its frankness about teenage life, but won wide praise for nuance and authenticity, winning an American Library Association Best Book award, in 1983 and many other honors. In 1987, Ms. Magazine celebrating its 15th Anniversary, named the novel one of “15 Great Books for Teenagers” appearing during the life of the magazine. Jack Forman, in Horn Book, described Juggling and two other novels as exemplifying "the achievements of the best young adult realistic fiction." [5] Chris Crowe's More Than a Game: Sports Literature for Young Adults lists Juggling as one of the "100 best sports novels of all time for young adults.[6]
  • Defectors - Set in the 1950s, this novel for adults also featured a sports theme: the narrator is an American miler who befriends a Soviet defector and wrestles with what to do when the United States decides to send the defector back. “Strong first novel … extraordinarily evocative,” said Publisher’s Weekly, while Seven Percent Solution author Nicholas Meyer wrote, “rich in its exploration of moral complexities, wonderfully evocative of a time and place.” [7]
  • The Store that Mama Built - Based on Lehrman’s own family, this finalist (one of three), for the 1993 National Jewish Book Award for Juvenile Literature tells the story of a Jewish immigrant family struggling to keep their store in business after the father’s death.
  • Doing Time, a non-fiction book for young adults which Lehrman co-wrote with Phyllis Elperin Clark, was a Jane Addams Children's Book Award-winner in addition to other honors.[8]

Other publications by Lehrman include articles, reviews, and short stories under own name in a wide range of publications—the New York Times, WomenSports, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Illinois Times, Public Relations Journal, Transatlantic Review, Louisville Review, Tufts Magazine and many others. Documentary scripts include Bradley Whitford's narration for Alliance for Justice award-winning 2007 film, Quiet Revolution.


  • The Political Speechwriter’s Companion: A Guide for Writers and Speakers CQPress 2009
  • The Store That Mama Built (novel) MacMillan 1992
  • Separations (novel), Viking 1990; paperback Puffin/Viking 1993
  • Defectors (novel), Arbor House/Morrow 1988; Japanese Edition Hayakawa 1990
  • Juggling (novel) Harper & Row 1982; paperback Pacer Books 1984
  • Doing Time: A Look at Crime and Prisons (co-author, non-fiction) Hastings House 1980

Selected Articles[edit]

State of the Union: The crafting of a speech (Christian Science Monitor cover story, January 2011)

Friends, Romans, Countrymen (Tufts Magazine cover story, Summer 2010)

Richard Yates Remembered (From The Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers' Workshop (Hyperion, 1999))


Interview with Mark Ragan of Ragan Communications for its Social Media Leadership Series.


  1. ^ a b c "Robert Lehrman Biography". Robert Lehrman Biography. American University.
  2. ^ "CQ Press link". CQPress.
  3. ^ Unger, Mike (15 February 2010). "Speechwriting as an Art, and a Job". American University. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Book Review: The Political Speechwriter's Companion".
  5. ^ Children's Books and Their Creators. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  6. ^ More Than a Game: Sports Literature for Young Adults. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2004. p. 156.
  7. ^ "Book Review: Defectors". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  8. ^ PDF of all Jane Addams Children's Book Award Winners: winner in 1981

External links[edit]