Robert Dallek

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

When I saw that the 2008 rate for a speech by Larry Summers was $45,000 to $135,000, I got to thinking.

Out of curiosity, I started prowling the various Web sites of speakers' bureaus and came to six conclusions:

  1. It seems everybody in the world is available for speeches. Included are political and show business stars, second and third bananas, and hundreds upon hundreds of people I never heard of.
  2. All of these people—luminaries and nobodies—get fees from $1,000 to $1 million, plus expenses.
  3. I used to make a lot of speeches, and all I ever got was expenses and a plaque with my name engraved on it.
  4. I was a damned fool. I was as much a nobody as anybody else and could've picked up some dough if I'd just asked.
  5. If someone invites you to make a speech, think about asking for an honorarium at the very least, if not a fat fee, plus expenses. For Colin Powell, expenses include a private jet along with his $100,000 fee.
  6. The worst that can happen is that no money in the budget exists for fees or expenses. If you refuse, someone will replace you.

I've been around for 12 presidential administrations—starting with that of Franklin Roosevelt, who died in office when I was 10. In my memory bank are five deeply flawed men who turned the highest office into a national nightmare and were rendered politically impotent during the final years of their presidencies: John F. Kennedy (Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, assassination), Lyndon Johnson (Vietnam), Richard Nixon (Watergate), Jimmy Carter (Iran hostage crisis) and Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky).

My family was not Democratic nor Republican. Nor am I. I've always voted for whomever I believed to be the best person for the job. As a result, I'm a registered Independent, which means I never vote in primary elections. If that's a cop-out, so be it.

For the record, up to the current administration (on which the jury is still out) I voted Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton.

Only twice in my life have I seen the country crippled and disfigured, resulting in genuine grassroots passion in a presidential election: 1968 and 2008.

The year I got passionate about politics—and dispassionate—was 1968.

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