Margot Andressen is a Senior Speech Writer for the Canadian Minister of International Development. In this episode, Margot speaks of a spontaneous experience of connecting to Source as a young reporter, and how that experience was pivotal in pursuing her career in journalism and then as a Speech Writer. We explore how writing speeches is, for her, a way to touch people's hearts and infuse light and magic into the world.
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My guest today is Margot Andresen. Margot is a writer after 15 years as the senior speechwriter for the Minister of International Development for Canada. She is stepping down from the position to finally pursue her personal writing projects. Margot, Welcome to Women Rise.
and thank you for being here. I'm super excited about this interview and I'm so curious to know more about you and how you got into this work and what animates you.
Well, I'm delighted to be here with you, Claire.
Margot as a speech writer, you have a particular role in the way that you are going to articulate what people need to say and want to say, which can be very influential in a very subtle way, and I'm interested to hear from you how you navigated that role and how did you put your consciousness in service of what you were writing?
You know, that's actually. It's a very complex process, as you can imagine because it's an iterative process where I write something, other people change it, I change it back some more or change it in a different direction, and then ultimately the person who's going to give the speech, and that could be the minister or the parliamentary secretary, both give speeches everywhere and, and they will either say what you've given.
or they'll just put it down and say whatever they want. So the trick is how are you gonna get them to say the words you wrote or at least wrote some of. So you have to, first of all, step away from the idea that it is ever completely yours. It's not. But I like to say to people, enjoy the first draft
That's the one you get to be creative. I think first of all, you have to write about something that really matters to you. And international development is something I've written and cared about for 30 or 40 years. So I have a deep knowledge of it that I can come from. I bring that to it. And you know, you bring things on many levels to something that ultimately sounds and looks very simple, but it's actually incredibly layer.
And because I've been a teacher of meditation and energy work and a healer before I took on this role, I literally let it come through me and I know which words are filled with light and which ones are not. And it's become part of my process that certain words and, I fight for those words to stay.
Hmm hmm. Because I feel that they will change people when they're. And so that's one thing, one way, a subtle way in which I influence it. And the other thing is…
Before we go to the other thing, Margot, can you give me an example of a word that you would fight for ‘…
words like inspiration, words that evoke emotion in people. And speeches are very much about emotion and you know, I think deeply about what is a simple way that I can really talk about what is underneath all of the stuff that maybe is going on at a conference I think, what is behind this? What is life actually like for the people that I'm talking about? And two, and I make the connection between the two.
That's beautiful. That's beautiful. So what I'm hearing when you say that even is that you're, you're writing with your heart, you're writing with your feelings, right?
Absolutely. And a full skillset too. You have to definitely, definitely. You have to have that part in you…
You're also using your heart and some, of your three centers of knowing.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know, I, I think in particular, there are two women I have written for one, a former minister, and one is the current parliamentary secretary. And each of them has taken me aside and said, you really get my voice. Hmm, and I've thought about that. And in fact, no, they get my voice, because what it means is that we think the same way about things. and that we care about the same things. It's easier for women to admit those things than men, but I'm sure some men have felt the same way that I've written.
And so I try to, I channel my inner whoever it is I'm writing for, and interestingly, the voice changes, you know, even though it's my voice and it's also, I know that that person might say it a little differently. It's like, I feel them. Hmm. As I'm telling the story through for them to say. I think I'm connecting with them at a soul level and their sole purpose when I'm writing, but I'm not consciously thinking about it. I'm just tuning. and writing from that place. So I think it's critical that you use your intuitive level as well as all of the logical levels and the knowledge and the skills that take years to build before you can be doing a job like that.
So you are bringing up an important point here. You're, you are giving,, a sense of how you are tapping not just your mind, but also your heart, your feeling center, and your intuition to, be the voice of someone else with an intention to touch people's hearts, what are other ways that you sense, that you've been able to lead from such a subtle plane in your work?
Well, you know, I wanna say too, We also have an opportunity in the workplace to influence all the people around us, especially those who are decision-makers, you know?
So I have developed relationships with the people who actually carry out the international development programs too, and I, I insist on phoning them and getting them to turn the camera on so I can see them, and then, . I make jokes. I talk to them about what they're looking like and what their home looks like, and then I get them to tell me something important about the topic.
So that's before you write a speech for them?
Yes, yes. Yes. Because you, the first thing is to elicit the information you're going to work. , and that comes from the people who are actually designing and carrying out the programs that the money is used for and who also usually have a deep passion for the subject.
So I guess I'm tapping into their passion. I'm letting them know there's another human being here who feels like you do.
So you create a connection?
I do, yeah. And then they send me all of theirs. not just, okay, here, I'll digest it for you, and here are a few points. So I make sure that I'm working from a rich field of information and that comes out of that connection. And it is also part of the joy of doing the job, which is to connect with others who feel the same way and who are also trying to make the world a better place. And, and, you know …You also lead by example. So I'm in a unique position right now of working with people who are half my age. I am the age of their parents, and they're, they're the sort of digital generation who don't participate in the same way about things, you know?
So in meetings, I will speak. And speak the truth very plainly. Make jokes about it, talk in a way that is, I hope, inspirational or at least human, and get them to open up and engage.
That's beautiful. And, Margot, I imagine you weren't always like that. I mean, you have a lot of humor. You have a very direct, candid way of talking and you're also very kind and loving. I'm just curious, how were you, as a young journalist, how was it for you to work as a young writer…
Oh man, you make me think of the days when I was a reporter on a daily paper, the Ottawa Journal, which no longer exists, and I was so scared of dealing with the guys on the desk cuz they were pretty much all guys. And I was 17 or 18 and wore mini dresses. I mean, I just didn't fit there.
and I would go and hide in the phone booths that there were in the newsroom and take a breath before I could gather myself to go back out there. So, no, I was terrified, but I had a super skill already when I got there. I had the ability to listen deeply and that meant that when I interviewed people, they told me things that they wouldn't have told other people.
Right. And I gained their trust and I honored that trust. So, I didn't betray it and tell things that they did not want to be told. This made me a bad reporter, but a better person.
Right. And also, they gave you trust and it grew your own trust in yourself, your own confidence, I imagine.
Yes, because I was a very shy person when I started all that. And you know, at this point in my life I have interviewed virtually thousands of people in my lifetime. And, you know, as I, as I learned when I first started doing it on tv, I got better at it when I realized that my job was to put other people at ease, and not think about how nervous I was myself.
So I guess I've used the job to kind of grow into it and to make a place for myself. And, you know, with a job like being a journalist, you have such an opportunity to learn, and I've always loved learning.
And I was a person who was shy, introspective, and loved fairy stories and others, in fact, my managing editor at the paper when I later saw him said it was like, you believed in fairy stories or something?
And I thought, yeah, what's wrong with that?
So that's, that's actually I was going to ask you, how did you at this time navigate these two worlds, you know, being conscious from a very young age that you were connected to fairies and doing light work, even if it wasn't totally conscious at the time. How did you navigate this world and the more conventional world of journalism in a man's world? It, was a very harsh world and that was hard for me to fit into because I really hadn't been exposed to that at all. But, you know, I also had men who encouraged me and mentored me, and that was helpful.
But I will never forget a life-changing experience I had when I was I thought I was gonna lose my job and therefore my opening into journalism. Because I had done such a bad job when I first started on a weekly paper, I was 17 and I was sitting on the bus. And I, I think asked for help just mentally.
I said, I, I just can't go on like this. I felt despondent and all of a sudden I was looking at the sky. I was sitting on a bus. and it was like the sky opened up and a field of energy opened up. Though I couldn't have described it at the time, I became the clouds, and the clouds became me. And I knew undeniably that I was part of something much bigger than I was and that I, it would be okay.
It would always be okay. And I drew on that experience for years. In fact, I probably did.
That is so important. So you had this direct access to Source and you did not separate from it. You actually, used it, to support you.
That is so important. And you know, so many times I hear stories about people connecting to Source and not knowing what to do with it.
Yes, because really I had no, nothing else and nobody else seemed to be on my side about it.
Even my family said, oh, this will never work. You know, and of course, being who I am, my attitude was, watch me. So, yeah, it was a really anchoring experience. But, you know, in the five years or so where I really went into a form of energy work in California I touched some really high states and became quite transformed by all of that and
And just, , just to get a sense of this, how old were you when you did that?
I was in my late thirties, I would say. That happened in my early forties. I probably did this when I meditated three, or four times a day. You know, I was really into it. And, I reached a point where I thought, okay, where do I go from here? Because it was like I couldn't relate to ordinary people around me because, well, they just weren't as transformed, were they?
So I had to find a way to be with myself so that I could anchor all of this in the world, in my way of being in my life, and so that my everyday way, had also had value.
And so my way of doing it was to look for the light in each person I met.
Right. So, there was a moment in your youth when you felt like you didn't know how to do it alone. And you asked for help from your heart, right? It was a prayer, a, a very spontaneous moment of prayer. And your prayer was answered with an experience of Source, right?
And, that source became what carried you through the work?
And at some point in your evolution, you went all the way and cultivated your connection to source, to light, to the point where it was almost, difficult to integrate this part of you or being in your work. And the bridge that you managed to create was to bring your realization of light, to see that each person was light.
Yes. And it helped me to develop a sense of compassion too - which you can only have once you have compassion for yourself. But in between those two phases, I completely lost my connection as I moved through my twenties and thirties with the Source. Okay. I still knew it was there, but then one day, I ran into somebody at work.
I had two phases of working on international development and during the first phase, I ran into somebody who was interested in energy work and all these things. It was the late eighties, so it was a, a big thing, the new age stuff, you know, and he said, Oh, what do you, what do you think about gems, you know about crystals?
And I thought, oh, great. A flake, And he, he just looked at me and said, I have a book. I think you might enjoy reading. And he gave me the name and I don't know what made me do it, but I went out and bought that book and I read it. And that's the book that changed my life. And it's by Senia Roman. Every word in those books was like, it spoke to me. And I started going to their seminars and following all the things they were developing and it was brilliant. So that opened the door for all of that to me. But I had the openness to really hear this guy about that book. It's because I connected intuitively with it and I felt that it was for me. So, that sense of intuition was still there and still functioning even though it had been sleeping for some years. Y
Yeah, yeah. So, but the other, the other thing though that, that I did. that prepared me as, and, and this is important, I did behavioral therapy for 20 years with a psychiatrist who had a really innovative approach and he helped me move out of an attitude of being a victim as so many people are trained to be. It's really part of our society and into being proactive. how to stand up to anger because I was terrified of people who were angry and you know, just how to be in the world so that you could have the influence over things turning in the way that you wanted them to.
This was very important work, right? To be proactive. To be, intentional about yours.
Yeah. And how to make your behavior cause a reaction in other people that were more in line with how you wanted things to be.
Which is exactly what you're doing when you're writing a speech for someone.
Yeah, it is. And you know, so I think there was the other point I wanted to make of it, the speeches is that over time, things have changed where people don't change very much of what I send them anymore. It's very interesting. And then the people who get the speeches at the other end love them and you know, so my writing has somehow become a reflection of that iterative process where I'm including other people's hearts as I move along through.
Right. Not just trying to direct it from a point of ego.
Right. And, this is beautifully connecting with what you were saying earlier, you know how you write a speech through not just your cognitive faculties, but through your heart, your feeling, your intuition, and how you connect with the other person. On a human level before you write for them. And, it seems like you've developed a very high skill in doing that. And the proof is that people are not changing your writing anymore.
I know. It's hilarious. Really.
Yeah. Yeah. And, so I'm very touched by not just the wisdom that comes through you, the wisdom that comes from years and years of experience, and of inner work, but underneath all that, there is, a sparkle. There is this unique essence of Margot that comes through it. And, what I sense is that the way that this shows up is in your humor, there's a lightness and humor to you, that I experience when I interact with you and that I experience even now in this exchange. Do you sense that unique sparkle of Margot that is able to come through your speeches?
Oh, absolutely. Speeches are not funny though, Claire. You have to understand that.
I imagine, and this is why I'm asking...
Well, you know, I think if you can get people to behave as though they're human, it's a good start on having humor because it's really part of the same.
But I was not always this funny person that, you know, now I've really had to work at that, and it was actually a decision that I made when I split with my ex. So I was in my early forties, and I decided to change certain things about how I was, that had been, I felt, limited by being with him. And one of them was that I knew I had in me this sense that I could be really funny. But I wasn't using it. It was like an unused muscle. So I decided that it was important to inject humor every time I could. Well, without being too interfering with what was going on, but that it could never be mean spirit. it had to be ridiculous or exaggerated. Something that made people turn things on their heads and look at them things differently. That's the kind of humor I enjoy. So that's what's behind the bubbling that's going on there. And also I decided at the same time that I would pass on every compliment I could, that I heard about people and give them compliments, but only if it was genuine.
And so my ability to give compliments escalated. And just as you were saying at the beginning, that helps people to feel more confident about who they are, and that's okay to be all of who they are in the world. .
Yeah. So what would be your message to younger women who also struggle, as you did in your early days In bringing their whole self, their unique sensitivity and perspective into the world? Often it's hard for them to, feel supported in this more heart-centered way of being. What would be your advice for them?
What, well, I think to find the place where it rubs, where they feel constrained and give it permission. And just let it be out there. Look for opportunities to exercise and build the muscle of that part of themselves in there every day. Because you know, the big changes come from people who give themselves that permission and you know, you may think you know how to change the world, but Jesus, it sure starts within. Definitely, no one's gonna listen to you. Otherwise, no one's gonna take on your projects. So you can't do it alone in most cases. So you may as well start where you are and do the things that present themselves to you. Take every day, every meeting as an opportunity to just bring that part of yourself out and delight others with it. And you know, remind other people. By you being that way, you are reminding other people and giving them permission to be human also.
And then, that elicits a different relationship with them and that gives a different result.
Right. Beautiful. Is there anything else that you want to Touch on before we end?
Yeah. I have a little story about it, it's about the essence of the idea of, you know, having that passion to change the world and where it comes from for people. Mine came to me when I was on a trip to India in the late seventies. Was the first trip really, that I had ever taken to a developing country. And outside of the hotel in Calcutta, I was traveling with an older experienced colleague. And I looked and I pointed and I said, Ian, look at that pile of rags there. And he said, look more closely, that's a person, that's where they live.
And I was so horrified to think that life had come to that for this poor person. I just wanted, with all of my being to change their world. And the same for the other people who were so incredibly poor and who had well, so political little in the physical world and had lost hope and everything else.
I thought about it overnight. He said you think about it. What can you do? You just think about that because he was experienced, you know? So he knew to ask me that question, and I realized that if I gave every penny I had and every penny I earned in my whole lifetime, it probably wouldn't change too much.
But if I told their stories, I could move people. and I knew I could tell their stories better than most people. And so I committed to telling their stories and I've now done it for 40 years. And now we're at a point where people are telling their own damn stories. But you know, I, I think it's important to realize what, what are your strengths and what are your limit?
in this desire to make the world a better place. You can't use yourself up trying to do it, you know, and you must play to your strengths. So that's what I want to say about that. Yeah. You're expressing this, an invitation to really tap into what's yours to do, what's yours uniquely.
And it sounds like that's what you tapped into that day, and that's what carried you.
Absolutely. And once you tap into what's yours to do, you no longer feel useless or helpless you're just focusing on what's yours to do and, that's a huge difference.
Yeah. It gives your life purpose and Exact. Purpose. Purpose gives meaning. Yeah. And we're, we're all looking for meaning. Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Margot, I wish you all the best as you pursue your own writing projects.
Thank you. I appreciate that. I am so excited about it. Yeah.