Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Jon Favreau

The life of a presidential speechwriter is not an easy one; take it from someone who knows. It's not just the hours and the stress — it's the odd way that in a circle of powerful people, the word "only" tends to get attached to your name. Jon Favreau, President Obama's head speechwriter, is learning about that. I hope he also learns to remind himself that it's an undeserved word.

True, Favreau is only a speechwriter. But the President of the United States is once again the central mover and shaker in this country and the world. The man who wields the first and final pen helps determine American policy and its place in that world.

True, he is only one of several on the President's talented team and specializes in major domestic speeches. But having served with Obama since the President's first days in the U.S. Senate, Favreau is primus inter pares, consulted on every key pronouncement. Today, as the world depends on America's efforts to strengthen its economy and regain its senses, U.S. domestic policy affects everyone.

True, Favreau is only 27. But when I entered the White House at 32, I was thankful that I had the energy and idealism necessary to withstand the repeated crises, criticisms and lengthy late-night hours of emergency meetings.

And true, he has the good luck to work for a brilliant and articulate President (something I know a little bit about too). But every President — particularly in today's complex world — lacks the time to plan and draft with full consideration and information all the statements that his responsibilities require him to deliver virtually every day.

It is President Obama who is lucky to have found someone who shares his thinking and style of speaking as readily and congenially as Jon Favreau, and it is the nation that is lucky that those two found each other. Favreau's survival in the No. 1 position throughout all these years of testing and turmoil, believe me, is not merely a matter of luck.

Sorensen was speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy. His most recent book is Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History

Fast fact: Favreau wrote parts of Obama's Inaugural Address on his laptop in a Starbucks. He fuels himself on double espressos and Red Bull