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The undelivered speeches that could have rewritten history

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a concession speech after the 2016 presidential election, but she also prepared a speech to deliver if she had won.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a concession speech after the 2016 presidential election, but she also prepared a speech to deliver if she had won.

Many people think of history as inevitable. Events lead to outcomes that tumble towards a foregone conclusion.

In reality, many monumental moments could have gone down very differently if certain events had or had not occurred.

What if Edward VIII hadn’t abdicated the British throne in 1936? If Richard Nixon had refused to resign? What if Boston Mayor Kevin White hadn’t supported the integration of his city’s schools? If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency?

In all of those cases, speeches were prepared for those outcomes that never were. Those primary sources reveal how easily history could have taken a different path. They also offer insight into those moments themselves, including the motivations and feelings of the speech-givers and the people around them.

Former presidential speechwriter Jeff Nussbaum became obsessed with undelivered speeches after working on the Al Gore campaign. We ask him about history, these speeches, and what they tell us about these moments in time.

This excerpt from Nussbaum’s new book includes a speech Hellen Keller planned to give at a women’s suffrage march, before it was broken up by male rioters.

Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches That Would Have Rewritten History excerpt by wamu885 on Scribd

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5

Avery Kleinman