On November 7, 2000, a junior speech-writer for the Al Gore campaign hovered in the wings of his candidate’s Nashville headquarters, waiting to see which speech would be delivered that night: the acceptance or the concession.

The catch, of course, was that neither speech would be delivered that night as the results of the election remained in flux for another month until Mr. Gore gave a different type of concession speech on Dec. 13.

In his latest book Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches that Would Have Rewritten History, Washington speech-writer and seasonal Island resident Jeffrey Nussbaum — that Al Gore junior speech-writer — cites Election Night of 2000 as the beginning of his fascination with the undelivered speeches of history.

“I’ve been through stacks of files trying to find my printed copy of the speeches Al Gore was prepared to give that evening, of the floppy disc they were stored on, to no avail,” Mr. Nussbaum writes. “Since that night, I’ve nursed an obsession with finding and bringing to light the undiscovered.”

Available now, at your local bookstore. — Ray Ewing

Undelivered presents more than a dozen speeches that were never presented, largely due to twists of circumstance or last-minute reconsiderations. At a book talk Wednesday night at Bunch of Grapes, Mr. Nussbaum spoke about the years he spent accumulating the speech manuscripts that now form the bedrock of the book.

Mr. Nussbaum recalled when Hillary Clinton discovered his obsession on the campaign trail in 2016, she offered to give him whichever speech she didn’t deliver on her election night.

“The campaign end[ed] and I went several months before I asked, ‘So what about that offer?’” Mr. Nussbaum told the audience at Bunch of Grapes. Ms. Clinton’s undelivered victory speech is now the subject of the book’s 12th chapter.

On Wednesday, Mr. Nussbaum explained how his search for lost speeches — something of a hobby before it became a book — was aided by nearly two decades spent with some of Washington’s most important politicians (and their speech-writers). After working for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in the early 2000s, Mr. Nussbaum was hired by the Obama campaign to serve as their vice presidential speech-writer. For years he drafted the addresses delivered by now-president Joe Biden.

In addition to his Washington ties, Mr. Nussbaum has a longstanding connection to the Vineyard.

“When I was young, my father worked summers at the hospital, so we started coming here when I was very young,” Mr. Nussbaum told the Gazette.

At Bunch of Grapes, his family and Island friends were in full attendance, asking questions with the rest of the crowd.

At the event, Mr. Nussbaum divulged which of the undelivered speeches in the book were his favorites: the speech John F. Kennedy had planned to give on the day of his assassination, and one prepared by Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld, who had failed to win reelection after pardoning the convicted Haymarket rioters of 1886. (He was never given the chance to deliver a farewell address).

Both speeches revolve around on the dangers of political extremism, and the need to look at the facts when making political decisions.

“These are two speeches [would have been] delivered 70 years apart, but they feel more relevant today than ever,” Mr. Nussbaum said. He wondered what effect they might have had on the public’s consciousness had they been delivered. Could a present as popular as Kennedy have swung public attitudes?

Mr. Nussbaum said that when writing the book, he didn’t really have a thesis in mind. But when people kept asking him what the book’s thesis was, he said he told them about a quote he incorporates into the book, from Ulysses S. Grant: “I am a verb.”

“If there’s a thesis, it is to embrace our verbiness,” Mr. Nussbaum said. He argued that the collected speeches demonstrate just how tenuous our relationship with history and the future really is, and how much one small action, one little verb, can change the course of events.

“Often outcomes really do rest on a razor’s edge,” he said.