A Final Word with President's Faithful Speechwriter

President Bush reviews the text of his State of the Union speech with Michael Gerson. i i

President Bush reviews the text of his State of the Union speech with Michael Gerson in the Oval Office, Jan. 23, 2003. Scroll down for highlights of President Bush's speeches. Eric Draper/White House hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Draper/White House
President Bush reviews the text of his State of the Union speech with Michael Gerson.

President Bush reviews the text of his State of the Union speech with Michael Gerson in the Oval Office, Jan. 23, 2003.

Eric Draper/White House

Michael Gerson might be the highest-profile ghostwriter in the country. Over the last seven years he has written most of President Bush's important speeches, including two inaugural addresses, the president's much-admired speeches after the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as several State of the Union messages and many, many policy statements.

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Hear more from Linda Wertheimer's interview with Michael Gerson:

"It's half writing, and it's half diplomacy."

Gerson has been called the moral compass of the White House, a policy provoker; certainly he's a phrasemaker to the president — starting with "the soft bigotry of low expectations," a passage from the speech Mr. Bush gave when he announced his intention to run for president.

"It means standing for the weak and the suffering and the oppressed here and in other countries."

As he prepares to leave the White House later this month, the speechwriter and policy adviser looks back at his five years of work with the president.

There's a "new Evangelical approach to social justice that is broader."

Gerson says Bush's frequent religious references are not much different from other presidents.

"I'm somewhat of a student of presidential rhetoric, and it's ... strongly consistent with our history. You'll find the same in John Kennedy and you'll find the same in Franklin Roosevelt and other American presidents who understood that there's a moral context for political events."

But Gerson says that while Bush used religious language, the White House strived not to be sectarian. "The goal is to be welcoming to all faiths and their important role in our common life. But it is a real mistake to try to secularize American political discourse…"

Key Bush Speeches

President Bush speaks at the national prayer service three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.  i i

President Bush speaks at the national prayer service three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Ron Sachs/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Ron Sachs/Corbis
President Bush speaks at the national prayer service three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

President Bush speaks at the national prayer service three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Ron Sachs/Corbis

Following are highlights of key speeches by President Bush during the tenure of speechwriter Michael Gerson:

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