Obama’s Ghost


It seems appropriate that a president who wanted to be a writer would choose a speechwriter who wanted to be a politician.

The Favreau family settled around Manchester, New Hampshire. The patriarch, Robert J. Favreau, was elected as a Republican to the state legislature. One of his sons would become the Manchester chief of police. Another, Mark Favreau, met a pretty schoolteacher from Woburn named Lillian DeMarkis, and moved to Boston to marry her and start a family. Their first son arrived in 1981, and they named him Jonathan.

From early on, it was clear that the kid was precocious with language. "My mother," Jon Favreau says, "loves to tell embarrassing stories about me reciting ‘The Night Before Christmas.’" That’s when he was two.

And politics was part of his early years. His mother’s family was Greek, and Michael Dukakis’s run for president in 1988 galvanized her. In 1992, Favreau, not even a teenager yet, stayed up late and watched all the presidential debates with his father.

When it came time to pick a college, a good friend said he was going to College of the Holy Cross, so Favreau applied, too, and received an academic scholarship. It was while in college that politics really began to entrance him. He took all the political science and sociology classes he could. "The whole gestalt of Holy Cross is how I think about politics," Favreau says, "which is that it’s the art of the possible. We can all come together and talk about our differences. We can all come together in the fact that we need to help our community."

Favreau volunteered to help advocate for welfare recipients in Worcester. The experience "left me wondering," he would say, "why I would regularly encounter single working mothers who could not afford food, housing, or medical care, despite the fact that they worked over 40 hours a week. If the idea was to get people off welfare rolls and into jobs, why were the jobs failing to provide even the most basic standard of living? These questions led me to Washington."

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  • 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.