WASHINGTON, DC: As President Clinton begins a late-in-the-administration PR push to drive new race and poverty initiatives, J. Terry Edmonds has returned to the White House as director of speechwriting. He becomes the first African-American to hold that position. Clinton has worked more closely with his speechwriters than other recent presidents, rendering Edmonds a top communications figure within the administration. Robert Boorstin, a former national security speechwriter for Clinton who is now with Greenberg Quinlan Research, emphasized that Edmonds' selection is ?a good indication of the confidence the President has in Terry.?
While second-term presidents are considered ?lame ducks? and rarely attempt to advance large-scale legislative initiatives, Clinton's desire to leave something other than a scandal-tarred legacy will likely make for an interesting last 16 months of his administration. The president's last slate of activity is thought to focus on improvements in race relations and medical care, and helping the poor.
Edmonds, according to most, is the perfect person to help Clinton forward his agenda. ?He won't lose sight of the ultimate goal at a time when others might be resigned to getting little done,? said Boorstin. ?A speechwriter has the chance to find the phrases that will become the markers for looking ahead,? added Powell Tate EVP Tom Griscom, who was director of communications during the last two years of the Reagan administration.
?It is not only a time for the president to start summing up earlier accomplishments, but also one to promote important goals that haven't yet been completed.?
Edmonds' resume is dotted with a wide range of communications experience.
Before accepting the speechwriter position, Edmonds had been director of communications for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington-based think tank that concentrates on issues impacting the African-American community. He also served as press secretary for Kweisi Mfume, who is now president and CEO of the NAACP, when Mfume was a member of congress.
Before assuming a similar position at the White House, Edmonds had been deputy director of speechwriting for health and human services secretary Donna Shalala. He later worked on the president's initiative on race.