Columbia Bizcast: Ryan Jacobs ’19

“Good speeches, as a rule, generally push a single idea,” says the former speechwriter for the Obama Administration.

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When the Democratic National Committee needed a volunteer speechwriter in 2012, Ryan Jacobs ’19 was quick to put up his hand. The gig soon turned into a full-time job as a speechwriter within the Obama Administration.

“I was an incredibly minor, minor, minor character in this administration,” Jacobs says. “If the Obama Administration was a movie, I’d be like extra No. 1,846. But I was there. And it’s a privilege to be there. You sort of feel like you’re in the middle of something big.”

On this episode of Columbia Bizcast, Jacobs talks about how his career in speechwriting started with emulating a character from TV drama The West Wing and led to traveling around the country as chief speechwriter for former President Obama’s secretary of transportation. Jacobs also explains why he wanted to learn “the language of business” from Columbia Business School.

Now working toward his Executive MBA degree as a cross-country commuter based in Seattle, Jacobs is a senior speechwriter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Good speeches, as a rule, generally push a single idea,” says Jacobs. “Bad speeches, as a rule, are like kitchen-sink speeches. Speeches that try to placate everybody. By saying everything, they say nothing.”

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