Former Obama speechwriters slam Trump's 'riffing' speech style

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Former speechwriters for the Obama White House have spoken out against President Trump's informal speaking style.

The comments were made at a Harvard Institute of Politics event called 'The Art of White House Speechwriting' which took place on Wednesday.

After a student asked if Trump's more improvisational speeches are likely to influence political speechwriting going forward, Cody Keenan, Obama's top speechwriter, said about the current president, "He's certainly not the first person to try to wear the mantle of populism and riff from whatever comes to his mind."

Obama Family at Farewell Speech

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US First Lady Michelle Obama (2R) and US President Barack Obama greet supporters as daughter Malia looks on after the President delivered his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017. Barack Obama closes the book on his presidency, with a farewell speech in Chicago that will try to lift supporters shaken by Donald Trump's shock election. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center left, embraces his daughter Malia Obama as U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, center right, looks on while U.S. Vice President Joseph 'Joe' Biden, right, and his wife Jill Biden, second right, walk onto the stage after his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Obama blasted 'zero-sum' politics as he drew a sharp contrast with his successor in his farewell address Tuesday night, acknowledging that despite his historic election eight years ago his vision for the country will exit the White House with him. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 10: President Barack Obama greets his wife Michelle and daughter Malia following his farewell speech to the nation on January 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn in the as the 45th president on January 20. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, gestures as U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, center, and their daughter Malia Obama look on after his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Obama blasted 'zero-sum' politics as he drew a sharp contrast with his successor in his farewell address Tuesday night, acknowledging that despite his historic election eight years ago his vision for the country will exit the White House with him. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CHICAGO, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 10 : U.S. President Barack Obama greets daughter Malia (not seen) and first lady Michelle Obama on stage after delivering his farewell address at the McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America, on January 10, 2017 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Malia and Michelle Obama join President Barack Obama onstage after the farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, USA on January 10, 2017. (Photo by Emily Molli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her daughter Malia embrace as President Barack Obama praises them during his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) is joined onstage by first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, after his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, their daughter Malia, Vice-President Joe Biden and his wife Jill acknowledge the crowd after President Obama delivered a farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/John Gress
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 10: U.S. President Barack Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden wave goodbye to supporters after Obama's farewell address at McCormick Place on January 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama addressed the nation in what is expected to be his last trip outside Washington as president. President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn in the as the 45th president on January 20. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)
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Keenan continued, "I don't think it's a great idea to just get up there and riff when you have no idea what you're talking about. But I also don't think it's a harbinger of a new age."

He also said, "The reason we write things down is to organize our ideas in a fluid way...I would recommend that the president do that."

Sarah Hurwitz, who was Michelle Obama's chief speechwriter, followed up by saying, "I would agree with that. I also think that there is a misunderstanding that if you're riffing, saying the first random thing that comes to your mind, you're somehow more authentic."

SEE ALSO: Trump on course to surpass one Obama benchmark

She later added, "I think that the Obamas, President Bush...they put a lot of effort into making sure what they got up and said was what they exactly wanted to say...I don't think that made them less authentic, I think it may them more so."

A Carnegie Mellon paper analyzing speech patterns among 2016 U.S. presidential candidates found that Trump's words and grammar tend to "lag behind the others."

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