The Art of Political Writing: a conversation with speechwriter Sarada Peri

March 6, 2023
5:30 P.M. ET
Malkin Penthouse (Littauer Building, L-P-9), Zoom and livestreamed online
Communication—writing in particular—is the lifeblood of politics and journalism. Rosenthal Fellow Adam Lashinsky, who is at work on a biography of the Presidential speechwriter and political columnist William Safire, is hosting a series of interviews with today's leading practitioners of the craft. Join him in conversation with top columnists and speechwriters for a discussion of technique, of-the-moment topics in Washington, and the interdependent relationships between political writers and their government subjects and clients.

On Monday, March 6, The Shorenstein Center hosted a moderated discussion with Sarada Peri, former senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and currently the head of Peri Communications. In addition to her work in the Obama White House, Peri worked for a wide variety of corporate and political clients with the Washington firm West Wing Writers. She also served in various policy roles on Capitol Hill and as a speechwriter at multiple Democratic National Conventions.  

In a wide-ranging conversation with Rosenthal Fellow Adam Lashinsky, Peri discussed the art of political speechwriting and, importantly, how integral the process of Presidential speechwriting is to the process of policymaking an administration. Peri offered tremendous insight into what goes into the words a President utters—and how those words are translated into policy and become part of history. This conversation is especially helpful for anyone wanting to understand this crucial aspect of governing. Speechwriting, particularly at the Presidential level, sits at the intersection of government and political communication. Peri’s unique experiences illuminate both.

Sarada Peri is a speechwriter and message strategist who has helped top leaders and thinkers – from Fortune 50 CEOs to the President of the United States – inspire and persuade audiences.

She was Special Assistant and Senior Speechwriter for President Barack Obama. Prior to joining the White House, she was a Principal at West Wing Writers, where she worked with corporate, nonprofit, and political clients on speeches, op-eds, books, and message strategy.  She was also a member of the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Democratic National Convention speechwriting teams. Today, she runs Peri Communications, a speechwriting and strategy practice. Sarada also writes under her own byline, and has been published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and other outlets.

A recovering policy wonk, Sarada worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer for former Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). She started her career as a high school English teacher in New Orleans through Teach for America. Sarada is a graduate of Tufts University and the Harvard Kennedy School.

Adam Lashinsky is the A.M. Rosenthal Writer-in-Residence at the Shorenstein Center. Adam is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and seasoned TV and radio commentator who has covered the technology industry, finance, and other topics for more than 30 years, with postings and assignments on three continents. He is the former executive editor of Fortune Magazine, where for two decades he covered the biggest and fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley, as well as venture capital, Wall Street, and a wide variety of industries. Before joining Fortune, Lashinsky held positions at, The San Jose Mercury News, and Crain’s Chicago Business. For many years he was an on-air contributor to the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network as well as Marketplace Radio. Lashinsky freelances for a variety of publications, including The Washington PostInsiderThe InformationThe San Francisco Examiner, and Airmail, and is developing two documentary film projects. He is the author of two books: the New York Times bestseller Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works (2012) as well as Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination (2017). Lashinsky is currently writing a biography of William Safire, the late newspaper columnist and presidential speechwriter.