Jon Favreau speaks about experience as Obama’s former speechwriter

PA031756Not many people have had the opportunity to see President Barack Obama speak firsthand, but on Thursday night in Gaston Hall, Georgetown was fortunate enough to experience the next best thing: listening to Obama’s former director of speechwriting, Jon Favreau. This event, co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Lecture Fund and the GU College Democrats, gave students exceptional insight into the life of our nation’s President—as well as the incredible man behind the scenes.

Candid and poised, yet humble, it is easy to see why Favreau was successful in claiming the prestigious position of the White House speechwriter. Having previously worked on Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, he moved his way up the ranks from lowly intern to deputy director of speechwriting until the election was lost. He was subsequently offered a job writing for then-Senator Obama that next year. When discussing the conclusion of his interview process, Favreau joked that Obama admitted: ” ‘I still don’t think I need a speechwriter, but you seem nice enough’ “. At the age of twenty-three, Favreau was on his way to becoming one of the youngest speechwriters in presidential history.

During the speech, Favreau then went on to discuss the mechanics of the speech writing process: it was never clean and simple. After getting advice from political advisors and presenting his initial speech draft to the President, he confessed that, “either the speech would come back completely marked up with edits in black pen, or it would come back with no marks whatsoever and a note that said “let’s talk”, which did not mean he wanted to personally congratulate me…” Despite the challenges that accompanied the weighty task of verbalizing the President’s thoughts, Favreau explained that his unique and unparalleled experience working with Obama has allowed him to “learn about writing, politics, and life”.

The dialogue became much more intimate as Favreau revealed personal beliefs about the seemingly dismal and cynical world of modern-day politics. He conceded that although it appears that self-interest is the driving force behind politicians’ decision-making, he asserted that, having worked for Obama, the “greatest gift I received over the last eight years is that this [notion] is a lie”. Concluding on an inspirational note, Favreau asked that the audience never “let anyone else’s cynicism be your excuse for not trying”.

While Favreau is no longer Obama’s speechwriter as of spring 2013, he is now a co-founder of Fenway Strategies, a communications consulting firm, and hopes to collaborate with  colleague Tommy Vietor on a screenplay or T.V. series about their time in Washington sometime in the near future.

Photo: Marla Abadilla/Georgetown Voice

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