I love the challenge of learning someone else’s voice — their passions, their go-to phrasing.
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This Speechwriter's Place is in the House
Mikayla Hall’s introduction to politics was memorable. Voting in her first presidential election, she realized too late that she’d miscast her vote. “I was distraught,” recalls Hall (BA, Communication, Political Science, 2011). Fortunately it was a mock election in her kindergarten class.
Hall has come a long way since then. As a speechwriter for the House Republican Conference, Hall drafts speeches and other materials for Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and collaborates on projects for other House Republicans. “It’s been an amazing opportunity to both do what I love and work for a Representative from Washington state whom I deeply respect,” says Hall.
Long before heading to the other Washington, Hall developed her speechwriting skills at Gig Harbor High School in western Washington, where she competed in speech and debate. At the UW she polished her skills through public speaking courses in the Department of Communication, while also diving into leadership roles with UW College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty. “I originally joined these groups as a way to make friends, and it evolved from there,” says Hall. “It helped me build a network on and off campus, learn leadership skills, and apply what I learned in the classroom to real life. My experience in UW student groups was instrumental in me launching my career after graduation.”
Also valuable was Hall’s experience volunteering at the UW Speaking Center, where she provided guidance and feedback to fellow students preparing speeches and other presentations. “It was fascinating and moving to see students become more confident and empowered in their public speaking,” Hall says. “I’d find myself cheering for them and waiting anxiously to hear how they did on their speech.”
Matt McGarrity, director of the Speaking Center and principal lecturer in the Department of Communication, remembers Hall’s impressive skills as a coach. “It’s tough being able to quickly gauge a speaker’s strengths and weaknesses and then turn around and help them improve, but Mikayla was great,” he says. “She wasn’t just about delivery. She was able to coach the entire speech: content, arrangement, style, and delivery.”
As a Speaking Center volunteer, Hall had to adapt to students’ diverse speaking styles, writing skills, and interests. The same holds true working with Republican leaders. “I love the challenge of learning someone else’s voice — their passions, their go-to phrasing,” says Hall. “And it’s an indescribable feeling of joy when you’re attending an event or watching C-SPAN and you hear someone say something you helped write. I’ve been working in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly five years now and I still come back into the office grinning and saying, ‘That was so cool!’ after an event. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short statement at a meeting or a speech with the First Lady — it never gets old.”
Some Representatives’ passions become Hall’s as well. After writing about foster care and adoption for a former Representative for several years, Hall is now “deeply passionate” about this issue. Of course there are also times when she must write content that counters her own views. Such is the reality of speechwriting.
“Working in the House is no different than any other job, in that no one is going to agree with their coworkers or employers 100 percent of the time,” says Hall. “Part of being a professional is reminding yourself that your name isn’t on the door and you are writing for another person, their opinions, and what they are asking of you.”
Would Hall want her name on that door someday? Right now she’s undecided.
“When I graduated from UW, my career goal was to write a speech that would be delivered at a national event,” says Hall. “I didn’t anticipate that I would meet that goal with my first job out of college. I’m keeping an open mind and open heart about future opportunities, but for now I’m thrilled to be doing what I’m doing. I’m excited to see what our team can accomplish in the months ahead.”