Cody Keenan

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  • White House Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama (2013-2017)

Cody Keenan has been a speechwriter for President Barack Obama for nearly a decade, rising from a campaign intern in Chicago to Director of Speechwriting at the White House. Through times of challenge and change, Keenan has helped President Obama craft remarks on every topic for every audience – from tiny backyards in Iowa to the biggest stadiums in the country; from sermons on the National Mall to the State of the Union Address.  Over eight years in the White House, their collaborations were compared to the works of Abraham Lincoln, described as the “‘I Have a Dream’ speech for the 21st Century,” and categorized even by prominent Republicans as “speeches that every child should read in school.” 

Together, Keenan and Obama's efforts resulted in some of the most unforgettable addresses of our time.  From Tucson to Newtown to Charleston, Keenan helped President Obama fill his role as Consoler-in-Chief.  From commencement addresses to Selma to Obama’s Farewell Address, they redefined the essence of the American creed and charted an inspiring, optimistic course for a new generation’s active citizenship.  In 2017, Obama asked Keenan to continue their partnership, and today, Keenan serves as Obama’s collaborator on his upcoming book, and as his post-presidential speechwriter.

Described as the "Springsteen" of Obama's White House and included in British GQ's "35 Coolest Men Under 38 (And a Half)", when it comes to finding a message that resonates, Keenan is truly in a league of his own. As Obama said of Keenan, "I rely on Cody not just to share my vision, but to help tell America’s story.  He’s a brilliant writer.  He’s relentless.” 

 
  

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Rave Reviews About Cody Keenan
Cody stole the show at our global corporate affairs gathering. He brought his warmth, richness of experience, and incredible sense of humor together to give us the guidance we needed to cultivate authentic storytelling at Hilton. I was not surprised to see that he rated the top speaker in our program.

A Sample of the Groups That Have Hosted Cody Keenan
  • Kennedy Summer School
  • AdAge
  • New York University
  • MSLGroup
  • Hilton
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<p>Cody Keenan speaks at prestigious Kennedy Summer School Festival in Ireland</p>

Cody Keenan speaks at prestigious Kennedy Summer School Festival in Ireland

White House Director of Speechwriting (2013-2017) Cody Keenan, was selected to headline the prestigious Kennedy Summer School Festival in Ireland, touching on what it was like to help President Obama find the right words for the American people during times of challenge and change. Described as the “Springsteen” of Obama’s White House, and nicknamed “Hemingway” by Obama himself, Keenan helped craft the President’s remarks following the tragedies in Newton and Charleston, for Selma’s 50th anniversary, his Farewell Address, and many more pivotal moments. Addressing a sold out audience for a session entitled “The Man Behind the Words: Speech Writing for President Obama,” Keenan explored the craft and process of speechwriting with an audio-visually illustrated presentation. While in Ireland, Keenan was also sought-out by several media outlets— including one of the most listened-to shows in Ireland the Marian Finucane show, The Irish Times World View Podcast, and The Pat Kenny Show—for interviews  on everything from the new administration’s approach to communications, to current policy issues, and how to find a message that resonates with every audience.

<p>Cody Keenan appears in new documentary on President Obama’s best speeches</p>

Cody Keenan appears in new documentary on President Obama’s best speeches

The incredible work of Cody Keenan, President Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter from 2013 through 2017, is on display in a new Smithsonian documentary: “The Obama Years: The Power of Words.” The hour-long documentary takes a deep dive into Obama’s legacy as the “writer-in-chief” exploring the president’s most memorable speeches and how they shaped the world stage. As chief speechwriter behind Obama’s State of the Union Address, the Selma 50th anniversary speech, and his farewell address in Chicago, Keenan played an integral role in helping Obama deliver pitch-perfect messages that resonated in the moments that mattered most. Nicknamed “Hemingway” by Obama himself, Keenan developed a reputation as a down to earth speechwriter, one who focused “more on individual, hard-work stories as parables for what is difficult but still possible in America.” The documentary shines a light on speeches that will undoubtedly go down as some of the greatest in American history, with Keenan among the true insiders that provides unique access to the process behind Obama’s most memorable words.

 

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Biography

Cody Keenan has been a speechwriter for President Barack Obama for nearly a decade, rising from a campaign intern in Chicago to Director of Speechwriting at the White House.  Through times of challenge and change, Keenan has helped President Obama craft remarks on every topic for every audience – from tiny backyards in Iowa to the biggest stadiums in the country; from sermons on the National Mall to the State of the Union Address.  Over eight years in the White House, their collaborations were compared to the works of Abraham Lincoln, described as the “‘I Have a Dream’ speech for the 21st Century,” and categorized even by prominent Republicans as “speeches that every child should read in school.” 

Together, their efforts resulted in some of the most unforgettable addresses of our time.  From Tucson to Newtown to Charleston, Keenan helped President Obama fill his role as Consoler-in-Chief.  From commencement addresses to Selma to Obama’s Farewell Address, they redefined the essence of the American creed and charted an inspiring, optimistic course for a new generation’s active citizenship.  In 2017, Obama asked Keenan to continue their partnership, and today, Keenan serves as Obama’s collaborator on his upcoming book, and as his post-presidential speechwriter.

Educated at Northwestern University and Harvard University, Keenan’s passion for public service was sharpened as a young aide to the legendary Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  In 2014, Northwestern honored Keenan with its “Emerging Leader Award,” presented to a top alumnus under age 35.  In 2015, Keenan’s commencement address at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service was highlighted by the New York Times and the Washington Post as one of the year’s best.  And in 2017, CNN’s critically-acclaimed documentary “The End” highlighted Keenan as one of the central characters in the final days of the Obama White House. 

Cody Keenan has been described as the “Springsteen” of Obama’s White House, and his wife shares his surprise that he was named by British GQ as one of the “35 Coolest Men Under 38 (And a Half).”  In January 2017, after thirty-six years of hopeful waiting, Keenan finally got the chance to write his dream speech – one in which President Obama welcomed the World Champion Chicago Cubs to the White House.

With an intimate look into the unique lessons he learned at the White House, Cody Keenan helps future leaders in any field imagine and reach their full potential.