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Il Giornale, Italy

Obama’s Speechwriter
Wants to Leave at Age 32

By Giuseppe De Bellis

Translated By Micaela Bester

6 December 2012

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Italy - Il Giornale - Original Article (Italian)

This is a young man going against the tide: Jon Favreau is leaving one of the best jobs in the world at the age of 32. Hold on a minute before you ask “who is he?” because in this case it is not names that count, but stories. Favreau is Barack Obama’s speechwriter. He is the man behind the speeches; he is the paper, the pen, the words of the president of the United States. Favreau is one of the best-placed 30-somethings on the planet: He lives at the center of the center of the world. In certain ways, he is in turn the center of that center. Yet he wants to leave.

He will write the inauguration speech in January and maybe the State of the Union—then stop, according to the Washington Post.

It is a story that does not affect us, but it affects us. He is the thermometer of a generation which is not at all the monolithic block they would have us believe. Favreau is leaving because he says that four years in a job is sufficient, and when you no longer know what to give you have to have the courage to say, “I’m going, thanks.” He is the young man completely against or, if you like, the opposite of Minister Elsa Fornero’s choosy ones—not even a little bit fussy. Because if you leave the job as head speechwriter at the White House, you know that 99% of the jobs you could find will never reach such heights.

So why is he doing it? The question to this answer is the heart of the story—it is the detail which takes this story out of the West Wing of the White House and renders it universal: Favreau believes in himself, in the market and in the future. He is the personification of getting back in the game.

It would have been easy and comfortable to wait until the end of the second presidential term, when he would have been obliged to quit. In four years Jon would have found practically any job he liked, almost through transhumance. Certainly the majority of his peers would have done so. He, on the other hand, is the face of those who do not let time decide. Favreau is taking a gamble on his own capacity: I no longer have anything to give here, I will look elsewhere. He is doing it at the worst possible moment: high unemployment rate, stagnant wages, cuts to consulting (in the U.S.). He goes against the tide, trailing others like him.

His story resonates deeply with the American spirit and yet touches us in Italy also. Many -- too many -- of our 30-somethings stay here waiting for the job of their dreams and in waiting for it they leave themselves open to nothing. He, on the other hand, has the job of his dreams and is leaving it. No, it is not that he is taking stock in himself. It is the opposite: to leave the job as White House speechwriter is a choice which in itself carries with it the possibility of future failure, not to mention reappraisal. It is a risk. It is courage. It is the cultural approach which changes your life. Because only when you accept the idea of not being able to cope will you have some possibility of coping. Jon was taken on at 25, taken on because he had the shamelessness as an intern with the 2004 John Kerry campaign to tell a Senate candidate that his speech had a typo in it. That candidate was Obama and that speech would reveal him to the world. Favreau did not study at Harvard or Yale. He went to an average college. Which is to say: it is not true that it is only your schooling that gives you a chance.

To quit a job of privilege could be a defeat or a victory. It is, regardless, a powerful idea. Well-thought-out madness. It is the preparation for a new life. Some days ago the Financial Times wrote that many of the most highly rated brokers on Wall Street, almost all of whom are between 30 and 40, have gone back to studying. They leave their millionaire offices and take afternoon college classes to be ready in case they lose the privileged positions they have today. In Italy, we rely on the mob, unemployment insurance, protests. That is one way, certainly. Or we can organize ourselves for the future. In America the base idea is incredibly simple: Failure is not being fired, but not knowing how to get another job.



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