Jon Favreau (speechwriter)

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Jon Favreau
JonFavreau.jpg
White House Director of Speechwriting
In office
January 20, 2009 – February 5, 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Marc Thiessen
Succeeded by Cody Keenan
Personal details
Born Jonathan E. Favreau[1]
(1981-06-02) June 2, 1981 (age 33)
Winchester, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic
Alma mater College of the Holy Cross (A.B.), (D.P.S.)
Occupation Political speechwriter

Jonathan E. "Jon" Favreau (born June 2, 1981) is a former Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama.[2] Favreau attended the College of the Holy Cross, graduating as valedictorian. In college, he accumulated a variety of scholastic honors, and took part in and directed numerous community and civic programs. After graduation, he went to work for the John Kerry Presidential campaign in 2004, working to collect talk radio news for the campaign, and eventually was promoted to the role of Deputy Speechwriter. While working for the Kerry campaign, he first met Barack Obama.

In 2005, Robert Gibbs recommended Favreau to Obama as an excellent speechwriter. Favreau was hired as Obama's speechwriter shortly after Obama's election to the United States Senate. Obama and Favreau grew close, and Obama has referred to him as his "mind reader". He went on the campaign trail with Obama during his successful Presidential election campaign. In 2009, he was named as a White House staff member as Director of Speechwriting.[3]

Early life[edit]

Favreau was born in Winchester, Massachusetts,[4] the son of Lillian (née DeMarkis), a schoolteacher, and Mark Favreau. His mother is of Greek descent.[5] A former resident of North Reading, Massachusetts, Favreau graduated from the Catholic College of the Holy Cross in 2003 as his class's valedictorian,[6][7] with a degree in political science.[8] At the College of the Holy Cross, he was treasurer and debate committee chairman for the College Democrats, and studied classical piano.[6] From 1999 to 2000, he served on the Welfare Solidarity Project, eventually becoming its director. In 2001, Favreau worked with Habitat for Humanity and a University of Massachusetts Amherst program to bring visitors to cancer patients. In 2002, he became head of an initiative to help unemployed individuals improve their resumes and interview skills. He also earned a variety of honors in college, including the Vanicelli Award; being named the 2001 Charles A. Dana Scholar; memberships in the Political Science Honor Society, Pi Sigma Alpha, the College Honors Program, the Sociology Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Delta, and was awarded a Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2002.[6] He was an editor on his college newspaper, and during summers in college, he earned extra income selling newspapers as a telemarketer, while also interning in John Kerry's offices.[9] Favreau's nickname is "Favs", and he is afraid of flying.[4][10]

Kerry campaign[edit]

He joined Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign soon after graduation from the College of the Holy Cross.[2] While working for the Kerry campaign, his job was to assemble audio clips of talk radio programs for the Kerry camp to review for the next day.[7] When the Kerry campaign began to falter at one point, they found themselves without a speechwriter, and Favreau was promoted to the role of deputy speechwriter.[7] Following Kerry's defeat, Favreau became dispirited with politics, and was uncertain if he would do such work again.[7]

Favreau first met Obama (then an Illinois State Senator running for the U.S. Senate), while still working for Kerry, backstage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as Obama was rehearsing his keynote address. Favreau, then 23 years old, interrupted Obama's rehearsal, advising the soon-to-be-elected Senator that a rewrite was needed to avoid an overlap with Kerry's address.[9]

Obama campaign[edit]

Obama communications aide Robert Gibbs, who had worked for Kerry's campaign, recommended Favreau to Obama as an excellent writer, and in 2005 he began working for Barack Obama in his United States Senate office, before joining Obama's presidential campaign as chief speechwriter in 2007.[11] His interview with Obama was on the Senator's first day. Uninterested in Favreau's résumé, Obama instead questioned Favreau on what motivated him to work in politics, and what his theory of writing was.[7] He described this theory to Obama as, "A speech can broaden the circle of people who care about this stuff. 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."[12]

Favreau led a speech writing team for the campaign that also included Adam Frankel, Ben Rhodes and Cody Keenan.[9] For his work with Obama in the campaign, he would wake as early as 5 a.m., and routinely stayed up until 3 a.m. working on speeches.[9] His leadership style among the other Obama speechwriters is very informal. They will often meet in a small conference room, discussing their work late into the evening over take-out food. According to Rhodes, Favreau did not drive structured meetings with agendas. "If he had, we probably would have laughed at him", Rhodes said.[12] Favreau is planning to hire more speechwriters to assist him, but concedes he is unsure of how to manage them. According to him, "My biggest strength isn't the organization thing".[12]

He has likened his position to "Ted Williams's batting coach", because of Obama's celebrated abilities as a speaker and writer. Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said of Favreau, "Barack trusts him...And Barack doesn't trust too many folks with that—the notion of surrendering that much authority over his own words".[9] In Obama's own words, Favreau is his "mind reader".[13] He and Obama share a fierce sports rivalry, between the Boston Red Sox, favored by Favreau, and the Chicago White Sox, favored by Obama.[4] When the White Sox defeated the Red Sox 3–0 in the 2005 American League playoffs, Obama swept off Favreau's desk with a small broom.[9] During the campaigns, he was obsessed with election tracking polls, jokingly referring to them as his "daily crack".[12] At points during the campaign, he was said to feel overwhelmed by his responsibilities, and would turn to David Axelrod, and his friends for advice.[12]

On December 5, 2008, a picture of Favreau grabbing the breast of a cardboard cut-out of Hillary Clinton was posted on Facebook.[14] Favreau called Senator Clinton’s staff to offer an apology. They told him to not worry about it, saying, "Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application".[15][16]

President Barack Obama meets with Jon Favreau, in the Oval Office to review a speech April 14, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Favreau has declared that the speeches of Robert Kennedy and Michael Gerson have influenced his work, and has expressed admiration for Peggy Noonan's speechwriting, citing a talk given by Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc as his favorite Noonan speech. Gerson also admires Favreau's work, and sought him out at an Obama New Hampshire campaign rally to speak with the younger speechwriter.[17] He was the primary writer of Obama's inauguration address of January 2009. The Guardian describes the process as follows: "The inaugural speech has shuttled between them [Obama and Favreau] four or five times, following an initial hour-long meeting in which the President-elect spoke about his vision for the address, and Favreau took notes on his computer. Favreau then went away and spent weeks on research. His team interviewed historians and speechwriters, studied periods of crisis, and listened to past inaugural orations. When ready, he took up residence in a Starbucks in Washington and wrote the first draft".[13]

White House staff member[edit]

President Barack Obama works with Jon Favreau on the President's Normandy speech aboard Air Force One en route to Paris on June 5, 2009.

When President Obama assumed office in 2009, Favreau was appointed Assistant to the President and Director of Speechwriting.[2] He became the second-youngest chief White House speechwriter on record after James Fallows.[11] His salary was $172,200 a year.[18]

Favreau dated actress and screenwriter Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton.[19][20][21]

Favreau has been named one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" by Time magazine.[22] He ranked 33rd in the GQ "50 Most Powerful in D.C." and featured in the Vanity Fair "Next Establishment" list.[23][24] Favreau was also one of several Obama administration members in the 2009 "World's Most Beautiful People" issue of People magazine.[25]

Favreau has said his work with Obama will be his final job in the realm of politics, saying, "Anything else would be anticlimactic."[26] In regard to his post-political future, he said, "Maybe I'll write a screenplay, or maybe a fiction book based loosely on what all of this was like. You had a bunch of kids working on this campaign together, and it was such a mix of the serious and momentous and just the silly ways that we are. For people in my generation, it was an unbelievable way to grow up."[12]

In June 2010, the website FamousDC.com obtained a picture of Favreau along with Assistant White House Press Secretary Tommy Vietor, engaged in the notorious campus drinking game "beer pong" (more likely it was flip cup) after taking off their shirts at a restaurant in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.[27] Because of the timing of this event, (during the height of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill) this incident garnered numerous condemnations from the press and scathing critiques of the apparent immaturity of the young press and speechwriting team of the Obama Administration.[28][29][30]

On May 23, 2014, Favreau was awarded a Doctor of Public Service honorary degree by his alma mater College of the Holy Cross where he also gave the commencement address. [31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mass. gift to Obama; HC valedictorian Favreau is top speechwriter. - Free Online Library". Thefreelibrary.com. 2008-01-27. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  2. ^ a b c "President-Elect Barack Obama names two new White House staff members". Change.gov. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  3. ^ "The Complete Obama Speech Archive". 
  4. ^ a b c Parker, Ashley (2008-12-05). "The New Team - Jonathan Favreau". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  5. ^ Marchese, John (2009-12-28). "Obama's Ghost - Jon Favreau - Obama's Speechwriter". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  6. ^ a b c Kittredge, Dan (2003-03-28). "Favreau named valedictorian". The Holy Cross Crusader. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Wolffe, Richard (January 6, 2008). "In His Candidate's Voice". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  8. ^ Walsh, Kenneth T. (2009-02-23). "Jon Favreau: Obama's Mind Reader Prepares for Congressional Address". US News and World Report. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Parker, Ashley (2008-01-20). "What Would Obama Say?". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  10. ^ "Jon Favreau, Obama’s speechwriter aged 27". The First Post. 2009-01-20. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  11. ^ a b Fallows, James (2008-12-18). "I am shocked to see a factual error in today's Washington Post!". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Saslow, Eli (2008-12-18). "Helping to Write History". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  13. ^ a b Pilkington, Ed (2009-01-20). "Obama inauguration: Words of history ... crafted by 27-year-old in Starbucks". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  14. ^ "Obama speechwriter Favreau learns the perils of Facebook". CNN. 2008-12-06. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  15. ^ Schlesinger, Robert (2008-12-12). "Barack Obama Speechwriter Jon Favreau, the Hillary Clinton "Grope" and Scenes From the Surveillance Republic". US News & World Report. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  16. ^ Brown, Campbell (2008-12-05). "Commentary: Clinton changes her tune on sexism". CNN. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  17. ^ Warren, Mark. "What Obama's 27-Year-Old Speechwriter Learned From George W. Bush". Esquire. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  18. ^ "2010 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff". Whitehouse.gov. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 
  19. ^ Mullins, Anne Schroeder (2009-07-15). "Shenanigans: "Yep, they're dating"". Politico. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  20. ^ Hochman, David (2011-10-11). "20Q: Rashida Jones". Playboy. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  21. ^ Kamen, Al (2012-12-04). "Favreau, Obama speechwriter, weighing White House exit". Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  22. ^ "The 2009 TIME 100 - Scientists & Thinkers: Jon Favreau". Time. April 30, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 
  23. ^ "The 50 Most Powerful in D.C.". GQ. November 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 
  24. ^ "The Next Establishment 2009". Vanity Fair. October 8, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 
  25. ^ "100 Most Beautiful: Barack's Beauties". People. May 11, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 
  26. ^ Philp, Catherine (2009-01-19). "Profile: Barack Obama's speechwriter Jon Favreau". The Times Online (London). Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  27. ^ Nolongerfamous (2010-06-07)"WHITE HOUSE GONE WILD: Shirtless Favreau And Vietor’s Sunday/Funday Beer Pong Match". FamousDC.com. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  28. ^ Harris, John & Cogan, Marin (2010-06-10). "Are Obama staffers overexposed?". Politico. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  29. ^ A straight shooter, who isn't afraid to occasionally reveal the White House's fratty side." MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  30. ^ Gibson, John (2010-06-09). "White House Parties As Gulf Coast Suffers". New York Post. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  31. ^ Holy Cross Commencement Website (2014-04-25)"[1]". holycross.edu. Retrieved 2014-25-05.

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