Topic: "Speechifyin'" (4)
"Mr. Frodo, please."
"May I ask who's calling?"
"Yes, he doesn't know me, but my name is Jon Favreau, and I need his help."
"Just a minute, Mr. Favreau, I'll get him for you."
"There's a young man here to see you. Says his name is Favreau."
"What's he selling?"
"All he has with him is a laptop," said Sam, smiling at the buzz cut.
"I'm Frodo, what can I do for you, Mr. Favreau?"
"Mr. Frodo, I am a speechwriter, and I'm experiencing my first real case of writer's block. I've been told that you are never at a loss for words, and that you might give me some advice."
"Well, this is sort of an unusual request. For whom do you write speeches?"
"I beg your pardon, did you say President-Elect Obama?"
"Yes Sir, I've been writing for him since 2004, and never seeming to have any problems at all, until now. I just seem to have frozen up since a recent conversation with Bill Burton, who said to me "Dude, what you're writing is going to be hung up in people's living rooms!" I realized then," said Favreau, "that if you start thinking about what's at stake, it can get paralyzing."
"Interesting. I assume that we're talking about the upcoming Inaugural Address? Well, what have you done in the past as a sort of creative process?"
"Well, I stay on the move, drink a lot of double espresso shots and Red Bull, for up to 16 hours at a time, and completely close out all of my other responsibilities. This speech is different however."
"I see. What has the President-Elect said to you about the speech, and what other input have you received?"
"Well Barack and I spent an hour together with David Axelrod, and Barack told me that the speech should be no longer than 15-20 minutes, and then we all agreed that the theme should be, 'this moment we're in, and the idea that America was founded on certain ideals that we need to take back.' I then met with Peggy Noonan, who wrote for Reagan, David McCullough, the historian, and I've listened to hours of recordings from prior Inaugural addresses."
"Have you drafted anything as yet?"
"Oh yeah, I gave Barack a draft about a week ago, and he edited and re-wrote parts, too. He said to me, 'Don't worry, I'm a writer too, and I know that sometimes the muse hits you and sometimes it doesn't. We'll figure it out together.'"
"So what is the problem, and what can I do?"
"I need a joke."
"You mean, like, 'Three guys go into a bar. . .'"
"No, I'm talking about something to take the edge off of a speech that will include everything from his autobiography (Dreams From My Father) to his address at the 2004 Democratic Convention (Big ears and a funny name). Things are just so huge, and this is supposed to be a celebration."
"I see. You don't really want a joke, you want something memorable, thematic, universal."
"For all the world to see."
"For all the world to see."
"Are you talking about something along the line of 'I'd like to buy the world a Coke, and keep her company.'"
"Kind of hard to just say something like that, isn't it? It makes you want to sing along?"
"Wait man, are you saying Barack should sing a little song?"
"Or dance a little dance, and spray some seltzer in your pants."
"Robert Frost was on a podium like this one, a long time ago, and he captured the moment by reciting from memory what his 'old, tired eyes' could not read."
"So, is what you're saying that Barack need not zero in on the words as much as he needs to share the spirit of the words?"
"Isn't that what his whole campaign has been about, that which is behind the words themselves?"
"Good point Mr. Frodo."
"Do you know what I, Frodo Baggins, remember most from Barack's speech after winning the election?"
"No, but I'm obviously interested."
"His stated love for those little girls, and the promise fulfillment of a puppy in the White House."
"Cool. He may not be able to give us all a puppy. . ."
"But he can make us all want to go get one ourselves."
--Jon Favreau graduated from Holy Cross in 2003, and from a position in the Kerry campaign as a press assistant at age 23, was interviewed by the newly-elected Senator from Illinois for the position of speechwriter. After 30 minutes together, predominantly engaged in a discussion about family and baseball, he was asked "What is your theory on speechwriting?" His answer was "A speech can broaden the circle of people who care about this stuff. How do you say to the average person that's been hurting: 'I hear you. I'm there. Even though you've been so disappointed and cynical about politics in the past, and with good reason, we can move in the right direction. Just give me a chance.'"
--Barack Obama said, "I think this is going to work."
If only he would wear a tie.