“I’ve been always interested in politics, from the time I was a little kid.” Today, 46-year old John P. McConnell is a political, business, entertainment and government consultant in Washington, D.C.
He has known the world over during his work as long-time senior speechwriter for both former President George W. Bush as well as Vice-President Dick Cheney both during their national presidential campaign for one year as well as throughout their 8-year U.S. administration. As part of the three-person team responsible for the 43rd President and Vice-President’s most vital speeches, McConnell’s work stretches from the State of the Union Addresses to George W. Bush’s famed presidential address given to the joint session of Congress following September 11, 2001.
McConnell was involved firsthand for some of the most significant events during the administration, from eulogizing President Reagan, the presidential remarks on the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia, as well as his presence in Vice-President Cheney’s office on September 11th as Secret Service agents hurried them off into a bomb shelter following the attack on the Pentagon. During McConnell’s tenure in the administration, he has established himself in Washington as a gifted, understated yet charismatic, and loyal public servant, commanding the greatest respect of those around him.
“Just one year out of law school, I was a speechwriter… came in right at the bottom,” recalls McConnell of the start of his career. After graduating with honors from Yale Law School, McConnell eschewed what surely could have been a lucrative career in a Washington law firm and instead chose to enter a life in public service as a speechwriter for then Vice President Dan Quayle and later for Bob Dole in both of their national campaigns for the presidency. “When you get involved in a campaign, it’s by its very nature a risky proposition. You’re working for a candidate, it’s someone you believe in…. someone you’re willing to devote huge amounts of your own time and a chunk of your own career to helping. If it works out in a presidential campaign, you move to Washington, D.C. and you go to work at the White House. If it doesn’t work out, you’re looking for a job at Christmas time.”
Towards the end of the Clinton administration, for McConnell a Christmas job hunt was not needed as his previous campaign work helped secure tenure with the year 2000 Bush/Cheney bid for the White House. With the success of the campaign, McConnell then entered the 43rd presidential administration, moving directly to work as assistant to Vice President Cheney and later as special assistant to President Bush.
Looking back now after drafting tens of thousands of speeches during the administration, McConnell remembers a valuable lesson passed to him by George W. Bush- “The President told us early on that we should treat every speech as important.” It’s because of this principle and many more that McConnell is now seeking to impart his life’s learning and work to the next generation.
“To young people who want to get into politics, I tell them to definitely do it… to follow their heart, to get involved in something that matters to them. It’s not where the big money is,” McConnell laughs, “but it is definitely an area where you can feel like you’re making a difference. You can everyday go to work and feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.”
This past Spring, McConnell presented “Writing for the President: Then and Now” as an Institute of Politics 2011 Fellow at Harvard University. The 8-part program, sponsored by Harvard University’s I.O.P. Center of Action has provided a real-life look at the modern presidency for students interested in pursuing careers within the broad spectrum of politics McConnell has joined former deputy White House Chief of Staff, Joseph W. Hagin, Weekly Standard editor Dr. William Kristol, Senator Harris L. Wofford, NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro, Emmy-Award winning producer Scott Sforza, former U.S. Secret Service director W. Ralph Basham and others in the collaborative program, each offering a different in-depth vantage of the Presidency, from team building to press relations and security.
The incredible program offers students interested in political careers a direct pathway to their dreams, showing how individual governmental positions function as well as bestow insider and educated insight on where the political landscape is headed in their futures.
For McConnell, the decision to enter the world of politics is a life-fulfilling one. “You feel like you can have an impact on your country and you will also meet some of the best friends you will ever have in your life.”