Foreign Affairs

Chris Brose '02 writes speeches on the front lines of American foreign policy.

U.S. foreign policy, a topic that seemed to be on everyone's lips during the runup to the recent presidential election, daily occupies the thoughts of Christian Brose '02. In May 2004, Brose was hired as speechwriter to the U.S. secretary of state. He returned to Kenyon on Thursday, October 7, to give a lecture on the current debate in American foreign policy in the Higley Hall auditorium. More than one hundred Kenyon students, faculty members, and community members in attendance heard about Brose's experiences working at this level of government.

A political science major fascinated by the theoretical aspects of the field, at Kenyon Brose had pursued an honors project on Nietzsche's philosophy with political science professor Fred Baumann. He was contemplating a teaching career as his senior year began in the fall of 2001--until the September 11 attacks took place. In the wake of those events, political practice assumed an importance rivaling theory in Brose's thinking. While he went on to graduate with highest honors for his theoretically oriented thesis, from 9/11 onward his passion for practical politics and policy-making grew. He sought postgraduate work in Washington, D.C., where he currently resides with his wife, Molly McCammon Brose '02, a classmate and fellow student in the Integrated Program in Humane Studies, whom he met in his first weeks at Kenyon.

Brose's dual attraction to the practice as well as the theory of politics has shaped his professional writing. From Kenyon, he went immediately to work as an assistant editor at The National Interest, a prestigious quarterly journal devoted to foreign-policy topics. That job led to a short stint at The Public Interest, a highly regarded domestic-policy quarterly. Although he liked having the freedom to write whatever he wanted, he longed to learn more about how the government actually works. The former Lords swimmer got the chance to do just that when, in the spring of 2004, his former boss at The Public Interest told him about an opening on Secretary of State Colin Powell's speechwriting staff. Four interviews and two months' of security clearances later, he won a spot on Powell's team.

As one of three writers for Powell, Brose drafted some twenty-five speeches in his first six months on the job. He describes speechwriting as a kind of verbal ventriloquism. "When you pen a speech, you have to write for the voice you take on," he observes. Powell, he says, preferred clear, direct writing, with no more than one idea per sentence.

For Brose, mastering the art of speechwriting has been "like learning a musical instrument or a foreign language." He spent two months internalizing the natural phrasing and ­cadence of Powell's speech. Thereafter, he says, his words almost naturally conformed themselves to Powell's verbal rhythms.

In addition to writing, Brose served as a member of Powell's policy planning staff, where he reveled in gaining inside knowledge of how government works. "I'm sponging up as much as I can, learning as fast as I can," he said last fall.

[Editor's note: At press time, it remains unknown whether Brose will continue as speechwriter to the new secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice. Whether he's at State or elsewhere, keep your eye on this rising Washington star.]

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