During a single hour-long conversation, former director of speechwriting for President Obama and current podcast celebrity Jon Favreau ’03 covered myriad topics: the strengths and failures of the new Democratic House majority, 2020 presidential candidates, his tense first encounter with Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and his gratitude for Holy Cross.
Favreau, who has gained notoriety for his political podcast “Pod Save America,” took the stage at WBUR CitySpace, the new multimedia venue for Boston’s NPR news station, opposite Ben Brock Johnson, senior producer at WBUR. Part-conversation, part-interview, Johnson asked Favreau to explain the impetus for creating Crooked Media, the media company behind the popular podcast.
“When you get to the end of watching the nightly news, you’re oftentimes left feeling pretty helpless,” said Favreau. “You just covered a lot of really tough problems in the world, really bad news. Having all of that wash over you, and having this feeling of helplessness that you can’t do anything about it, I think it feeds apathy, it feeds cynicism, it feeds all the things that hurt our politics.”
“And as someone who cares about politics so much, and cares about change and social change,” he continued, “I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a media company where you could diagnose the problem but then also tell people, ‘Here’s what you can do to change it. You actually have agency to change the world around you, to organize, to become active.'”
That, explained Favreau, is the basis for Crooked Media, which he co-founded in 2017 with two other former Obama staffers, Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor, and which has produced a suite of podcasts, news articles, opinion pieces, and live shows and tours which have featured Favreau and his co-hosts in sold out venues across the U.S. and Europe. “Pod Save America,” their most successful podcast, drops twice a week and averages about 1.5 million listeners per show. The podcast offers a conversational breakdown of the week’s political news, interviews with activists, politicians and political experts, and was broadcast in a four-episode HBO special during the 2018 midterms.
Prompted by an audience-submitted question, Favreau acknowledged the importance of his early role models, before his whirlwind career kicked off in Washington, D.C. Many of these mentors came from Holy Cross, said Favreau, who studied political science at the College and participated in the Washington Semester Program.
“I am where I am today because I’ve had the most fantastic set of teachers throughout my life,” said Favreau, “starting with my mother and father, going into the elementary and high school teachers I had in North Reading, and then the wonderful mentors at Holy Cross, particularly Stephanie Yuhl, Caren Dubnoff, Mary Erdmans — fantastic professors who helped me not only develop a love of politics, but actually believed that I could go do something to change the world.”
The event was co-sponsored by Holy Cross and WBUR CitySpace, and the full interview can be viewed below:
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