Don Baer: Lessons From President Bill Clinton

[ 0 ] July 14, 2014 |

One gets a pretty good inside glimpse at the workings of the White House as a presidential speechwriter. For Don Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO of the strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller and former speechwriter and communications director for President Bill Clinton, he gained invaluable insight while serving in this position.

WATCH as Baer talks with genConnect at the Aspen Ideas Festival about some of his experiences working with Clinton, and what has helped him most in his career:

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Baer, who is also the chair of the research firm Penn Schoen Berland, has had quite the “eclectic” career, he said. “Its all been exciting and interesting, challenging. …I’ve had to learn a lot as I’ve leapt from one thing to another.”

U.S. President-elect Bill Clinton (C) and Vice PreBaer says one of the most important things he learned while working in the White House was that “it’s not about you, it’s about other people and certainly, the country.”

As the president’s speechwriter, he encountered many other people who had their own opinions on the speeches he was writing – and what they should entail. When one of the most powerful men in the world addresses millions of people, Baer says, what he says has to be as flawless and well thought-out as possible.

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Clinton also taught Baer to “always respect the people.” Not that Baer wasn’t respectful prior to working for the former president, he notes; rather, it was always stressed that the people of the country are who the White House serves, so their opinions have to be respected and considered.

But it was Baer’s tenure in the world of journalism that taught him some of his greatest lessons.

“I always say that if I had to point to one of my experiences that has helped me with everything else I’ve done since, it was when I was a news magazine editor at U.S. News & World Report,” Baer says.

The job taught him how to be creative and work within a group to produce something great – lessons that carry over, no matter what career path you choose.

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“I learned there how you have to make many different moving parts work together – people, story ideas, pictures,” Baer explains. “I applied that to my work at the White House, I applied that to my work at Discovery, I apply it to the work I do now at Burson-Marsteller.”

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About Don Baer: Don Baer has built a varied career as a leading media and communications executive. He has extensive experience in the strategic, creative and operational sides of the private and public sectors, including senior roles with [...]
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