Studying · Writing

A stump speech for Donna Moss

(Spoiler alert – if you haven’t finished The West Wing, turn away now.)

I was recently given an assignment in my fantastic speechwriting class in which we had to write a stump speech for someone from our home districts. Since I don’t have a home district, I thought I’d get creative.

According to Twitter, where all the West Wing characters are alive and well, Donna and Josh and now married and living in Wisconsin, where she is about to run for Congress. So, because she is after all my favourite character in all of TV history and the Twitter feeds are a lot of fun to follow, I decided to write a stump speech for her. I also decided not to ask my speechwriting prof first, because, well, because I really wanted to do it, and I figured if I wrote a good enough speech he’d have to give me a good grade regardless.

There are certain things that should be included in a stump speech. They include local flavour and details, wit (hence my attempt at the cheese joke, which I realise is unspeakably awful, but sometimes terrible jokes work too, and in my defence it actually came from Twitter Josh) and the four-part close (which I’m a big fan of, it turns out): first you mention an inspirational example, then you draw a lesson, then you issue a call to action, then end with a memorable line – a clincher. We were also asked to put in places where the audience could respond.

So for the West Wing fans out there, for those of you who have to put up with my weekly exclamations about how much I love my speechwriting class and wonder what it is I’m actually learning, and for those of you who might be considering running for office and might like to employ me to work for you at some point (a girl can dream), here it is:

My husband, Josh, loves a good cheese joke. Unfortunately, he loves a bad cheese joke even more. He wanted me to promise you a Gouda government. I’m sorry that I can’t do that. I can’t do that, not because it’s a terrible pun, although it is. The thing is, I can only promise you to do my share – my portion, if you will – to make the government Gouda. To make Wisconsin Gouda. But I do promise you that, with all my heart.

Josh is wonderful in many ways, by the way. You should forgive him for the cheese jokes because he did agree to move from DC to Madison with me so that I could serve you in Congress.

Yes, the speculations in the press were absolutely right: I’m running. And yes, that’s why I wanted to talk to you today.

We loved DC. We still love DC. But I grew up in Madison, and I can’t think of any District I would rather serve than this one. And that’s not just because of my nostalgia for Mrs Morello’s early-morning AP English classes at East High School. It’s not just because, despite Governor Walker’s best efforts, Wisconsin still has the best public pension of all the states: the best designed, the best governed. (That’s not just me saying that, by the way. It’s this month’s Institutional Investor Magazine.)

I’m proud of my roots. Actor Bradley Whitford is, too. “Wisconsinites are stubborn people,” he said at a rally in 2011. “We fish through ice!” I love that about this state. I watched you from Washington that year and I longed to be fighting by your side.

But that’s not why we came back either. We really just wanted to be able to drink the excellent beer here in Mason Lounge. (Thank you for hosting us. We appreciate it. And thank you for all for coming – though I know it’s really the beer you came for.)

I’m kidding, of course. I can’t actually drink beer, because – well. (Rubs pregnant belly.)

And you know, people ask me sometimes why I’m running when I have small children.

I’m running because I have small children. And they deserve better. They deserve a better world.

They deserve a world where I can drop them off at school and not worry about some mad man with an assault weapon and large capacity magazine showing up in their first grade class. That’s why I’ll fight to overturn the 2011 concealed carry law in our state. It’s why I’ll support Terese Berceau, Nikiya Harris and others as they work for a background checks bill in Wisconsin. It’s why I’ll continue fighting for an assault weapons ban.

Will you fight with me, for your own children, for the children of Wisconsin?

They deserve a world where they have access to the best possible schools, where they do not miss the unique opportunities afforded them by growing up in America. Opportunities like a bilingual education. That’s why I’ll fight to keep the immersion program at Chavez Elementary going.

Will you fight with me?

My daughter deserves a world where she will be paid the same amount for the same job as her brother is. Governor Walker repealed our Equal Pay Enforcement Act last year. He did it quietly and hoped no-one would notice.

Did we notice, Wisconsin?

Will you fight with me?

My daughter deserves a world where she gets to stay home with her newborn baby for more than a few weeks of unpaid leave. This state already leads the way, with some of the strongest unpaid leave laws, like intermittent leave and partial absences. But not everyone can afford to take unpaid leave. We can do better. 

Will you fight with me?

My children deserve government of the people, by the people, for the people. Not government of the super PACs, by the bought-off Representatives, for the special interests. Or for the Scott Walkers. That’s why I’m going to fight for campaign finance reform in Wisconsin and on the federal level.

Will you fight with me, Madison?

Will you send me to Congress so that I can fight for you?

You know, I mentioned Molly Morello earlier. She came in two hours early to teach that English class. She designed it herself because the school didn’t offer one. And in large part, it’s because of her that I’m here today. It’s thanks to her I have the confidence to stand up and speak like this.

But she didn’t know that when she started that class. She was just doing her job. Working hard. Putting in the effort. That’s what we Wisconsinites do. We don’t just talk. We take action. We sleep in the Capitol to fight for the unions’ rights. We’re stubborn. We fish through ice!

Will you fight with me, Madison?

Will you send me to Congress so that I can fight for you?

Our children deserve better. Our state deserves better. Our nation deserves better.

And with your help, we can achieve it.

Thank you. 


(A couple of notes for the West Wing purists: I probably should have had Josh rather than Bradley Whitford say the fishing through ice thing, but I didn’t want to push my luck with the fan fiction. Also, I don’t think we know where Donna went to school, so I had her go to East High because we have to use specific detail…)

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