Speechwriters have been important players in America's political process for a long time. If they didn't put words in the mouths of candidates and elected officials, politicians wouldn't sound nearly so bright or well-informed.

Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates deliver hundreds of speeches during campaigns — from state primary elections, to national party conventions, and on through the November 5 general election. In almost every case, they are be assisted by a team of speechwriters hired to help them present their ideas to voters in a persuasive, even catchy way.

The payoff for writing for a winning campaign can be great — many members of Congress, and even former Presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, has worked as speechwriter — but the job can also be frustrating and lonely. After all, speechwriters usually don't get any credit for their best writing. But at least two important groups of citizens know about them: the candidates themselves, and now, the Scholastic.com audience!

In Tips From the Insiders: How to Write a Political Speech, some top Democratic and Republican speechwriters offer their advice to aspiring speechwriters. You'll also find some great models for your speeches: Abraham Lincoln, Jesse Jackson, Barry Goldwater, Mario Cuomo, and George Bush all delivered powerful speeches during their political careers. Their examples show how a speech can be funny or inspiring, tell a story or make a point, and even coin a phrase that defines a winning campaign.

After reading the Insiders'advice and the five great speeches, why not go to work on your own "stump speech?" A stump speech is a speech outlining a candidate's main ideas and plans. A Presidential candidate will deliver a version of his or her stump speech at most campaign stops as he or she travels across the country.

In a stump speech, you need to state your ideas clearly, in a way that will not only capture voters'attention, but will convince them that your ideas are right for the country. And it doesn't hurt if the speech includes a joke or two, either! Candidates often use humor to get their points across. So have fun with your speeches, and use your imagination.

Think of it: You've just been named your party's nominee for President. Now the whole country is watching you, waiting to hear your vision for the future. It's an incredible opportunity. What would you say?