Smith donates presidential papers, letters to college

Senior lecturer in English at the University of Rochester and former presidential speech writer for George H.W. Bush Curt Smith ’73 will donate copies of presidential speeches, letters and other materials related to his work as a speech writer for Bush as well as manuscripts and papers pertinent to the 17 books he has written and other documents that were useful during his career. These various documents will be available for student use and will be stored in the Archives and Special Collections Display located in Milne Library, according to Special Collections and Reference Librarian Elizabeth Argentieri.

Students will gain a lot from interacting with these historical documents, according to Director of Special Development John Linfoot.

“It’s an opportunity to see something that is not necessarily in the daily public domain. Here’s a person who was closely involved in President Bush’s White House, and there’s a lot to be said of how anybody in public office communicates with the public,” he said. “When a person helps frame the message or communication of the president, that’s important.”

While working for President Bush, Smith explained in a phone interview that he focused on writing speeches that were not overwhelmed with facts and statistics, but instead used more stories and anecdotes to convey specific messages.

“We’re human beings. We communicate story to story and so this is how we relate,” he said. “So I always try to make my speeches anecdotally heavy as opposed to fact heavy.”

Smith said he was most proud of the speeches he wrote that moved Bush emotionally.

“The ones that I’m proudest of were the ones that moved him the most,” Smith said. “And I could always tell which one moved him, because they were the ones that moved him emotionally, moved him to tears.”

Smith explained that one of his favorite speeches he wrote for Bush was given in honor of the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

“Almost three times in that speech, if you look at the tape now, Bush came very close to the edge of really starting to cry, but he came back, and it was very difficult for him,” Smith said. “But the point is, he did get through. And it was in many ways his most impressive speech.”

Smith also had the opportunity to work with past speech writers for former presidents and said he learned a lot from these individuals that helped him while working in this position.

Smith has given back to Geneseo in many ways, according to Linfoot. Smith donated several of his books to Milne Library and also supports two scholarships. One scholarship is the Howard and Helen Smith Memorial Annual Scholarship, which honors his grandparents and is given to a student from Wyoming County who is dedicated, self-disciplined and has a desire to learn. The second scholarship is Mel Allen Annual Scholarship in Communication, which is given to a student who requires financial support and participates in communication activities outside of the classroom.

Smith explained that his studies at Geneseo inside and outside the classroom have taught him valuable life lessons.

“I found that at Geneseo I could learn a great deal in classes, but also a great deal, perhaps even more, outside of classes,” he said. “The atmosphere at Geneseo encourages learning for yourself and to be ambitious and to see how far you can push yourself in the respective field of your choice. I was able to do things perhaps that I wouldn’t have been able to do at a larger school.”