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Farewell to Jon Favreau, Obama's 'mind reader'

It’s the end of an era.
Jon Favreau, head speech writer for President Barack Obama, disembarks from Obama's campaign plane at Billings-Logan International Airport in Billings, Montana, August 26, 2008. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Jon Favreau, head speech writer for President Barack Obama, disembarks from Obama's campaign plane at Billings-Logan International Airport in Billings,...

It’s the end of an era. Jon Favreau, President Obama’s chief speechwriter, will be leaving his post come March, the Los Angeles Times reports and the Washington Post confirms, via a senior White House official.

Though it was reported that Obama once declared, “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” the president has clearly got a soft spot for Favreau--as well as a strong professional partnership. Obama has often described Favreau, or “Favs” as he is known in the White House, as a “mind-reader,” able to transform the president’s thoughts into a clear, compelling narrative, while also channeling the voice and rhetorical style of the president himself. For the last seven years—since reportedly interrupting then-Senator Barack Obama’s speech rehearsal to offer suggestions—Favreau has made his mark on virtually every speech given by the 44th president.

At 31-years-old, with a buzz cut and a pair of aviators, Favreau doesn’t exactly fit the mold of traditional presidential speechwriter. He and his writing team would regularly withdraw into coffee shops to pound out speeches in the same way a college student might hunker down to cram for an exam away from the distractions of a dorm room. For the most part, Favreau’s youthfulness exemplified the connection between Obama and America’s younger generation. But sometimes that same youth and relative inexperience on the world stage caused trouble. Shortly after Obama was elected to his first term, for example, a photograph surfaced of the newly-designated chief-speechwriter groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former rival and pick for secretary of state. Two years later, Favreau was spotted shirtless (alongside White House spokesman Tommy Vietor) playing a game of beer pong in Georgetown.

But when it came to writing, Favreau took his job very seriously. In a statement, Obama said of Favreau, "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."

According to the Los Angeles Times report, Favreau plans to stay in Washington D.C. for a while, but rumor has it that he may try his hand at screenwriting, a move that would land him in good company. Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett recently made the jump to screenwriting and is now the co-creator of 1600 Penn. And Last Word’s own Lawrence O’Donnell also blurred the line between Washington and Hollywood as both an aide to Fmr. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and as a writer on the hit series The West Wing.

Too bad Hollywood already has one Jon Favreau. Maybe this outgoing speechwriter should consider hanging onto his White House nickname—Favs.

Here’s a look at our top five Favs-written moments in chronological order:

1. The “Yes We Can” slogan

"For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we've been told we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people:  yes we can."

2. First Inaugural Address--January 20, 2009

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America:  they will be met."

3. Address to Congress on Health Insurance Reform--September 9, 2009

"Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care."

4.  2011 State of the Union Address--January 25, 2011

"We are part of the American family.  We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

5.  Second Inaugural Address--January 21, 2013

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."