Like Minds, Like Words
By now, the world is probably oozing with knowledge and information about the American president-elect’s life and times, his talent, his vision, his passion and his dreams, thanks to his penning his own autobiography “Dreams From My Father” and his best-selling political treatise “The Audacity of Hope”, and to the numerous speeches he has given since he entered the presidential race.
As for 27-year old Jon Favreau, the second youngest director of speechwriting to have ever been appointed to the White House, he has received relatively much less attention, understandably so, than his boss, but has been dubbed by the iconic leader as “a mind reader” of his. He has helped shape the words that Obama wants to say and the pair have formed such a harmonized partnership that their voices have fused into one.
Obviously, had Obama and Favreau not believed in the same values, principles and political ideals, they would not have been able to strike up such a seamless concert. A glimpse into Favreau’s valedictory address to a 2003 class at the College of the Holy Cross from which he graduated would give people some idea of what the young speechwriter embraces as idealistic for society – that individuals be decent and show concern and care about fellow citizens – a favorite moral theme of Obama’s. Favreau was chosen to deliver the address from among 17 of the top 30 students who had submitted speeches to the 2003 Valedictorian Selection Committee. Here’s an excerpt of the address:-
“Now, I realize that most of us already have jobs, but all of these positions are part time, and I’m sure all of us have the necessary qualifications. The employers are our communities, and while each position is already being filled by millions all over the world, there is a desperate need for more help. And here’s some of what we need: Soccer coaches, Den Mothers, PTA members, Neighbors who help you move in and promise to keep in touch when they move you out, Friends who come early and stay late, Shoulders to cry on, Big Brothers and Sisters, Family comedians, Tee Ball Umpires, Letter-to-the-Editor authors, Voters who care about any issue from Traffic Lights and Tax Reform to Potholes and Peace on Earth, Organizers and Activists, Critics and Supporters, Voices for those who are having trouble getting theirs heard, Summertime Porch-Sitters with special degrees in talking about everything and nothing until the mosquitoes bite, Mentors, Philanthropists, Signature collectors, Boo-boo fixers, Grocers to the hungry, Roofers to the homeless, and Believers—especially believers.”
It is apparent that this “speech team” has worked wonderfully well together over the last four years. As this Washington Post article notes:-
“In four years together, Obama and Favreau have perfected their writing process. Before most speeches, Obama meets with Favreau for an hour to explain what he wants to say. Favreau types notes on his laptop and takes a crack at the first draft. Obama edits and rewrites portions himself -- he is the better writer, Favreau insists -- and they usually work through final revisions together. If Favreau looks stressed, Obama sometimes reassures him: ‘Don't worry. I'm a writer, too, and I know that sometimes the muse hits you and sometimes it doesn't. We'll figure it out together.’”
One can hardly miss the mutual trust and appreciation that is evident in the relationship, without which the partnership would not have worked so well.
When interviewed by Obama, Favreau seemed almost able to speak like the interviewer himself by replying thus to his question as to what Favreau’s theory was of speechwriting:-
“A speech can broaden the circle of people who care about this stuff,” Favreau said. “How do you say to the average person that's been hurting: ‘I hear you. I’m there. Even though you’ve been so disappointed and cynical about politics in the past, and with good reason, we can move in the right direction. Just give me a chance.’”
Unfortunately, a naughty faux pas committed by Favreau that transformed into photos of him groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton posted on Facebook has stirred up some negative internet comments about the young wordsmith. This little storm-in-a-teacup is brewing at a time when he has to concentrate on sculpting Obama’s most important speech yet – the inaugural address. Hopefully, for both Obama’s and Favreau’s sakes, the ill wind will soon blow over as it should.