Daily remarks go something like this: the speechwriter cranks out the first draft, sends it over for tweaks and wait for edits. The major speeches involve taking notes, sit-down meetings with a team of advisers, researchers, transcribing copy, rewrites and usually some sleepless nights. When they didn’t get any notes back, they knew they were “in trouble” with their boss–the president of the United States.
Jon Favreau told msnbc.com he misses his former job as President Obama’s chief speechwriter, though not the late hours. He began the job in 2005, becoming the second youngest head speechwriter in the White House’s history.
In February, Favreau left the post not long after Obama’s second inaugural address to pursue TV screenwriting; he also opened a consulting business in Washington. “I do miss the creative process with him, because that’s an experience that you just can’t replicate,” said the Massachusetts native.
When Favreau left, President Obama said, “He has become a friend and a collaborator on virtually every major speech I’ve given in the Senate, on the campaign trail and in the White House.”
Favreau called Obama the “best boss” he’s ever had. In spite of the constant pressures of the Oval Office, the president “never raised his voice, he never got frustrated, he never yelled at us,” he said. He also credited the president with making him a “better storyteller.”
That doesn’t mean they always saw eye-to-eye. “The president is very open to advice, which is why he’s so great to work with. And so if you want to change something, if you believe one of the president’s edits isn’t quite right, he’s more than happy to listen to any of his speechwriters and sometimes he’ll say ‘That’s a great point, let’s change that’ and sometimes he’ll say ‘No, I had it right the first time.’”
While many Americans might point to the “Yes, We Can” phrase as one of the most memorable lines from Obama’s tenure, Favreau said his favorite speech was written for the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in 2007. “We were losing to Hilary Clinton by about 20 points in the national polls, we were a dead heat in Iowa and it was the one chance he had to turn it around in front of a very large group of caucus goers–he did a great job.”
One-liners only go so far–a common trap for politicians looking to score easy headlines.
“The president always taught me– you know from the day I first met him–was a really good speech tells a story from the beginning to end. It has a narrative arc to it, said Favreau. “A lot of people who deliver speeches make the mistake of focusing on just one line or one sound bite but the fact is, people are more apt to pay attention and more apt to remember something that you write or a speech that you deliver if it tells a story.”