WASHINGTON—Claiming that nothing about the city really evokes the strong sense of pride and endurance that typically serves as a source of strength in a time of need, members of President Barack Obama’s speech writing team admitted Thursday they were “pretty much at a loss” for how they would go about praising Ft. Lauderdale, FL should a tragedy strike the city.
“As presidential speechwriters, whenever a catastrophe occurs, it’s our responsibility to come up with a reassuring address that draws on the positive character of the afflicted region, but with Ft. Lauderdale, that might be a little tough,” said head speechwriter Cody Keenan, adding that nothing about the small coastal city is particularly conducive to inspiring a battered nation in the wake of disaster. “The fact is, if your job is pointing to the unique identity of a community as a symbol of everything that makes this country great, you’re going to find yourself in a bit of a bind if your source material is Ft. Lauderdale.”
“I mean, we’re talking about Ft. Lauderdale here,” Keenan continued. “You know what it’s like.”
According to Keenan, were Ft. Lauderdale to suffer a mass shooting, terrorist attack, or other unexpected tragedy, he and his team of writers would be hard-pressed to channel the city’s sandy beaches, wide streets, and abundance of strip malls into a resounding testament to the triumph of the human spirit.
Moreover, Keenan emphasized that none of what most people associate with the city—warm weather and a large elderly population—would be in any way helpful when attempting to compose a speech designed to reassure and embolden a country reeling from a recent devastating event.
“With Ft. Lauderdale, you’ve got palm trees, retirement homes, boat dealerships, a bunch of sunburned tourists, and that’s about it,” said Keenan, noting that few if any of these elements would be worth more than a line or two in any presidential address designed to urge listeners to overcome hardship and emerge stronger for it. “If we were to have Obama go up and talk about that for 30 minutes, it wouldn’t resonate with anyone, and it certainly wouldn’t make anyone feel particularly proud to be an American.”
“I mean, say the Fairfield Inn near the Ft. Lauderdale Airport gets bombed for some reason,” he continued. “I guess we could talk about America’s rich tradition of staying at airport hotels to reduce travel time in the morning. Or I suppose we could string together a narrative in which we talk about how the Fairfield served free continental breakfasts and that all Americans, as per tradition, certainly do enjoy their breakfast. I don’t think any of that would soothe and inspire a beleaguered nation, but it’s something.”
Fellow Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes concurred with Keenan’s assessment, pointing out that the city of 170,000 lacks any kind of cultural depth, inspiring local figures, or general relevance to the country’s larger history that could be incorporated into a speech intended to comfort and remind people of the nation’s greatness.
Rhodes noted that he’s thought about putting something together about the determination of the area’s first settlers, the Tequesta Indians, but admitted that would be “quite a stretch.” He even thought about using luxury yachts as a theme, but told reporters that would probably only inspire the country’s rich boat owners.
“With most cities, you’ve got this established notion of a resilient, tight-knit community that can surmount any and all obstacles,” Rhodes said, adding that if a devastating tragedy were to strike Chicago, San Francisco, or even Baltimore, he and his staff would be able to pull from the city’s distinct character and fire off a profound rumination on the power of the American dream “no problem.” “But with Ft. Lauderdale, what is there? Fireworks stands, drunk spring breakers, and the former home of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas.”
“It is a 45-minute drive from West Palm Beach,” Rhodes added. “So, that’s a thing about Ft. Lauderdale.”
According to the speechwriting team, the one saving grace is that it’s highly unlikely that terrorists would ever target any of the city’s three T.G.I. Fridays locations or its many go-kart tracks.
“I just can’t see us having to use Ft. Lauderdale as the embodiment of America’s resolve and dogged perseverance any time soon,” Rhodes said. “So, barring a freak explosion at the Ft. Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, Obama will more than likely not have to look directly into the camera while meditating on the greatness of the city and its overall relationship to the country.”
“Wait, I guess a lot of baseball teams do spring training in Ft. Lauderdale, right? So you have spring training, which leads to baseball, which is called America’s pastime, and ‘America’s pastime’ certainly has the word ‘America’ in it,” he added. “Yeah, we’ve got nothing.”