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The GW Hatchet

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Diversity, equity official to leave GW in July
By Jenna Lee, Assistant News Editor • June 8, 2024

The man behind ‘change we can believe in’ plans TV series based on Obama White House

Jon Favreau, President Obama's former chief speechwriter, spoke at a College Democrats event Wednesday evening. Julie Bessler | Hatchet Photographer
Jon Favreau, the former speechwriter for Barack Obama, spoke at a College Democrats event Wednesday evening. Julie Bessler | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Rachael Gerendasy

The former speechwriter for President Barack Obama said that his leap into politics was inspired by the classic political drama “The West Wing.”

Instead of perfecting Obama’s scripts and crafting slogans like “Yes we can”, John Favreau is now working on his own screenplay based on the eight years he spent behind the scenes in Obama’s White House.

Favreau, the wunderkind who left his post this March, told a packed Betts Theater on Wednesday that he aspires to create something that isn’t the “liberal idealist fantasy” of Aaron Sorkin’s drama, but is less cynical than the Netflix hit series “House of Cards.” 

Many of the scenes in his show, he said, will be based on moments from inside the White House and on the campaign trail.

Favreau, the second-youngest White House speechwriter in history, remembers his first speech for then-Sen. Obama, shortly after the pair met at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

“As I am walking away Obama yells after me, ‘I know this is your first speech, I know you’re nervous, but just remember that I’m a writer too. I know that sometimes the muse strikes, and sometimes it doesn’t. If you have trouble, come in tomorrow and we will figure this out together,’” Favreau recalled. “And that’s how he was for eight years. No matter how much stress he was under, he never once yelled at me, he never once lost his patience.”

Because Obama is described as one of the most skilled writers and orators of his generation, Favreau likened his role to “Ted Williams’ batting coach.” He said he is more of a “speech arranger” than writer.

The 32-year-old has also been called the President’s mind reader, penning speeches on the road and in his White House basement office, such as Obama’s landmark health care speech.

To the student crowd on Wednesday, Favreau praised the president’s character and described him as a man who is always competitive on the basketball court but also kind and honest. He said his years working for Obama restored his faith in politics and kept him from slipping into cynicism.

“Don’t ever let anyone else’s cynicism become your excuse for not trying,” Favreau said. “I almost let that happen myself, and it wasn’t until years later that my faith in politics was restored. It wasn’t until the 2008 election”

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