Seriously good speech writing (at only 26! Gasp!)

30 Jan

Jon Favreau is inspiring. He is the 26-year-old head speech writer for Obama. Yes, 26. Head writer. How monstrously cool is that? I’ll tell you: very monstrously cool.

After the New Hampshire and then South Carolina primaries, columns and blogs nationwide gaggled about the power of Obama’s words. Some accuse him of ripping off lines from Hollywood movies (that were supposedly torn from real political speeches). Hillary Clinton has been accused of modifying some of Obama’s speeches to suit her campaign. It’s all up for debate, and that’s not my point.

Here’s my point: speech writing is a tremendously powerful and overwhelmingly hidden art form. I mean, think about it. Bloggers and columnists and analysts alike are scrutinizing “Obama’s” speeches. Sure, those speeches have his stamp of approval. But guess where they came from?

A dude named Jon.

Favreau’s words are forming the basis for many arguments in the heated political arena. Imagine knowing you’re so incredibly successful in eliciting emotions from people through your art that you can do it almost anonymously; having never to answer to the critics, knowing someone else is the medium to your messages. And owning that medium’s voice so that it blends almost seamlessly with your writing, of course.

Ah yes, old McLuhan’s “medium is the message” bit. But honestly, the delivery is absolutely crucial to conveying the emotions that writers impregnate speeches with.

Take me, for example. One take-away I was sure listeners at a commencement several years ago would remember was a new acronym for iPod I contrived. The lead-in was something like,

“If only you could keep everything you’ve experienced in college on your iPod,” pause for laughter (which came swiftly. Score!). Then some additional filler before subscribing new meaning to the term iPod: “Innovation and Persistence Overcome Difficulties.”

Brilliant! Except the dean with his heavy Italian accent pronounced difficulties, “dee-fee-kuhl-teez.” No one understood him. I think I actually heard someone ask, “Did he just say feces?”

So much for mastering my medium.

It’s sometimes easy to forget — especially when coming from a charismatic, larger-than-life figure who happens to be running for President of the United States — that the words had to be written before they ever could be spoken.

Good writing resonates and elicits feelings. A medium considerate of the message is crucial. By marrying the two successfully, listeners can be transformed from passive spectators to actively engaged participants. As a writer, this synergy is ridiculously inspiring.

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One Response to “Seriously good speech writing (at only 26! Gasp!)”

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  1. Barack Obama » Blog Archive » Seriously good speech writing (at only 26! Gasp!) - January 30, 2008

    […] Bookworm wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptJon Favreau is inspiring. He is the 26-year-old head speech writer for Obama. Yes, 26. Head writer. How monstrously cool is that? I’ll tell you: very monstrously cool. After the New Hampshire and then South Carolina primaries, columns and blogs nationwide gaggled about the power of Obama’s words. Some accuse him of ripping off lines from Hollywood movies (that were supposedly torn from real political speeches). Hillary Clinton has been accused of modifying some of Obama’s speeches to suit her campaign. It’s all up for debate, and that’s not my point. Here’s my point: speech writing is a tremendously powerful and overwhelmingly hidden art form. I mean, think about it. Bloggers and columnists and analysts alike are scrutinizing “Obama’s” speeches. Sure, those speeches have his stamp of approval. But guess where they came from? A dude named Jon. Favreau’s words are forming the […] […]

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