09/06/2012 04:17 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2012

Michael Dukakis At DNC Recalls Delivering Acceptance Speech

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There are 13 people currently living who have given a primetime convention speech accepting their party's presidential nomination. The furthest back was George McGovern, whose speech came at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. The most recent is Mitt Romney, who gave his address at the Republican National Convention last week.

It would seem that delivering such an address would be a nerve-racking task. It's one of a candidate's most-watched moments of the campaign, along with the debates and the comments he makes on election night itself. But in a short interview with The Huffington Post on the convention floor in Charlotte Wednesday night, one of those 13, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, said he didn't feel butterflies when he took the stage at The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia in 1988.

"Most of us, before we arrive at this point, have made lots of speeches," he said. "That doesn't mean that it's not as important a speech. It is."

When you step on to the stage, he added, you're "maybe not nervous, but the adrenaline is flowing a little faster."

Dukakis' speech, titled "A New Era of Greatness for America," was widely regarded as a success. After the convention, 56 percent of respondents in a Gallup survey said they were more likely to vote for him, while 21 percent said they were less likely -- the second largest net impact that the polling firm has recorded since 1984. The governor, of course, went on to lose to George H. W. Bush.

Asked to explain what it's like to prepare for the speech, Dukakis offered the following insights.

"I used to deliver it, if you will, out loud, five times. Not in the mirror," he said. "And you find certain words work better than others, so you make adjustments."

Dukakis didn't follow a new routine. He didn't eat a special meal or take a nap. "You do the best you can to produce the very best speech you can," he said.

Dukakis said he wrote most of his own address. "I had some people work on it, on the last analysis," he said. "I was a terrible speech deliverer from a script. I liked doing it with some talking points ... But you can't do that here. So you have to get serious about rehearsal and making sure it sounds good and feels good."

Once, in the hall, he said, it's very tough to tell how well your performance is going over because everyone in attendance is cheering wildly.

"You have an audience that is obviously with you," he said. "In my case, we had a seven-candidate primary ... the Massachusetts delegation was right across from me, so I can all see these folks without whom I would never have been elected. But it turned out to be a damn good speech."

Asked how he thought Obama would do when he gave his own speech Thursday night, Dukakis said, "This isn't the first time this guy has done this."



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