Former speechwriter for the White House visits campus

first_imgFormer White House speechwriter for the Obama Administration, Jon Favreau, spoke at the Von Kleinsmid Center Monday afternoon on his experience as a political speechwriter and his current work at Fenway Strategies, a public relations/speechwriting agency, in which he is a founding partner.Political science professor Bob Shrum moderated the talk, titled, “Do Words Have Power?“Shrum began the forum by pointing out that Favreau was one of the youngest chief speechwriters for any president in history.Favreau said the president is very “hands-on,” unlike other presidents — most notably Nixon who preferred a corporate hands-off approach.Favreau pointed out that the only way to create a successful speech is to integrate details on a personal level.“Speechwriting is an incredibly personal process you are trying to integrate thoughts and beliefs with personal stories,” Favreau said. “The only way you can do that is by forming a relationship with the other person.”Furthermore, Favreau expressed the importance of focused speechwriting to the students in attendance. The speechwriter pointed out that having too many ideas in a speech can be confusing .“When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, the speech is bad,” Favreau said.Shrum, toward the end of his section of the discussion, steered Favreau toward the personal style of Obama and the speechwriting relationship Favreau developed with the president.Favreau described his speeches as taking on an extremely logical writing style, per Obama’s vision.“The constitutional professor [and] the legal mind really comes through with him,” Favreau said. “He is extremely logical, extremely ordered in his thinking, which is one of the most important things in speechwriting.”Favreau described the varied instances in which first drafts would come back with few edits from the president and other times in which the paper would be “covered in black ink.”Obama’s nuanced and specific speech style is what Favreau, referred to by Obama as “Favs,” seemed to strive for in his time in the Obama Administration. Favreau referred to Obama’s perfectionism when making edits to speeches, saying that the president was still editing his election night speech “even as states were being called.”Favreau went on to take questions from the audience, ranging from the role of technology and the role of humor in speechwriting and his opinions on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.According to Favreau, Clinton hasn’t been connecting to viewers as well as she can be.“I think that she has missed an opportunity to give big speeches and lay out a vision,” Favreau said. “Running for president is about laying out your vision.”Afterward, Favreau pointed out Trump’s ability to connect to the public with his lack of political correctness.“He has really exposed the phoniness of politics,” Favreau said. “People are like, at least he’s real.”Additionally, Favreau said Trump and Obama are similar because they are both authentic.“Authenticity forms, from above all else, fearlessness,” Favreau said. “[Trump’s] such a narcissist that he doesn’t care.”Favreau also discussed the State of the Union address and jokingly referred to it as a “beast of a process.”He said that the State of the Union requires diligent preparation with the president regarding themes and topics which must be started months before.Favreau closed with what he views as the most important element of speechwriting — storytelling.“A speech is a story with a beginning, middle and an end,” Favreau said. “It all comes down to transitions; you want to make sure every idea in the speech flows seamlessly to the next.”Sonali Seth contributed to this report.last_img

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