Obama's Ghost – Jon Favreau – Obama's Speechwriter

"Hey, everyone, this is Jon Favreau,  director of speechwriting."

It’s mid-November and Barack Obama has begun his first official Asian tour with a speech at Suntory Hall in Tokyo. The president is discussing the importance of Asia as a trading partner. He mentions the specter of North Korea and the rise of China, of engaging the latter in talks on trade and human rights issues. And, as he almost always does, Obama talks a little about himself—calling himself the first Pacific president, thanks to his Hawaiian birth and his childhood stint in Indonesia.

Favreau isn’t in Suntory Hall, though. He’s across the street, in the lobby of the Okura hotel, where a White House videographer has corralled him, stuck him in front of a potted bonsai tree to talk about the speech for the White House website. "It’s my first time in Japan," says Favreau, looking a little puffy and jet-lagged. In fact, in his suit and tie, with the bad lighting and straight-on camera angle, Favreau looks like a hung-over groomsman who’s been asked for a testimonial by the wedding videographer.

"The speech," Favreau continues, "was written over the last couple of weeks. Terry Szuplat started it at headquarters." Then Favreau and foreign-policy specialist Ben Rhodes stepped in, writing and editing it on the plane to Japan. "Some people stopped [at a refueling point] in Alaska, got out, hung out there," he says. "But we stayed on the plane and had a group editing session where people sat around a table, went through the speech line by line, and told us what they liked and what they didn’t.

"So that’s always real fun for us.

"The president edited it after that, had a few line notes, which I’m holding right here," he continues, waving a clump of manuscript papers in front of the camera. "And then we sent it off and it was done."

And with that, he signs off. The video lasts less than two minutes, yet it offers what has been the most detailed account to date regarding the nature of Favreau’s work for Barack Obama.

  • Suz

    Great story…what an amazing talent! If you want to read the original interview and story in Favreau’s alumni magazine (referenced in this article), check out http://bit.ly/64nzoE

  • Ozzie

    Adapting to th style of the speaker is crucial in good spechwriting. He did it and does it.