Cody Keenan

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  • White House Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama (2013-2017)
  • Highlighted by NYT and Washington Post as One of the Year's Best Commencement Speakers (2015)
  • New York Times Bestselling Author, 'Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America'
  • Recipient of Northwestern's Emerging Leader Award



Renowned speechwriter and messaging expert Cody Keenan rose from a campaign intern in Chicago to become Chief Speechwriter at the White House and Barack Obama’s post-presidential collaborator. Together, Keenan and Obama's efforts resulted in some of the most unforgettable addresses of our time. 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. Their collaborations have been compared to the works of Abraham Lincoln, described by CNN as “the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech for the 21st century,” and categorized even by prominent Republicans as “speeches every child should read in school.” Keenan continues to serve as Obama’s collaborator and post-presidential speechwriter. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America.

A sought-after expert on politics and current affairs, Keenan is now a partner at the leading speechwriting firm Fenway Strategies, and teaches a popular course on political speechwriting to undergraduates at his alma mater Northwestern University. He was described by NBC News as the ‘Springsteen’ of Obama’s White House, and included on British GQ’s list of the “35 Coolest Men Under 38 (And a Half).” He’s appeared in the History Channel’s nine-part special The Obama Years, on Showtime’s The Circus, in the Smithsonian Channel’s The Obama Years: The Power of Words, and elsewhere. Keenan’s commencement address at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service was highlighted by both The New York Times and The Washington Post as one of the year’s best, and he continues to be a sought-after motivational speaker for events with audiences of all kinds. With his humor and unparalleled insights, Kennan regularly receives rave reviews for speaking engagements, such as: “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.” (Hilton)

 

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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
  • Collin County Community College
  • Rhetoric Summer School, Finland
  • Intelligence Squared
  • Kennedy Summer School
  • AdAge
  • New York University
  • MSLGroup
  • Hilton
In Conversation - The President's Pen: A Conversation with Cody Keenan | World Affairs [1:05:06] - Get Sharable Link
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Author Talk: ‘Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America’

Based on his New York Times bestselling debut memoir Grace, renowned speechwriter Cody Keenan shares his dynamic account of the ten most dramatic days of Obama’s presidency. Keenan – whose collaborations with Obama on have been compared to the works of Abraham Lincoln – had a front-row seat to the k ...

Based on his New York Times bestselling debut memoir Grace, renowned speechwriter Cody Keenan shares his dynamic account of the ten most dramatic days of Obama’s presidency. Keenan – whose collaborations with Obama on have been compared to the works of Abraham Lincoln – had a front-row seat to the key moments in Obama’s White House, and offers a stunning account of this key moment in history.

Idealism and Impatience: Reasons for Hope in Today’s Political Landscape

Drawing on his eleven years as a speechwriter for President Barack Obama, Cody Keenan sheds light on the often disheartening nature of contemporary politics, and the importance of staying engaged in our democracy and optimistic about the possibility for change. A candid and compelling talk chock-ful ...

Drawing on his eleven years as a speechwriter for President Barack Obama, Cody Keenan sheds light on the often disheartening nature of contemporary politics, and the importance of staying engaged in our democracy and optimistic about the possibility for change. A candid and compelling talk chock-full of personal anecdotes about his own rise through the White House ranks, Keenan discusses what happens when youthful idealism and inspiration go up against the hard reality of a cynical and divisive politics - and why those values are, in fact, more important than ever before.

Cut Through the Noise: Building an Effective and Authentic Communications Strategy

Described as the “Springsteen” of President Obama’s White House, and nicknamed “Hemingway” by Obama himself, Cody Keenan served as White House Director of Speechwriting during moments of challenge and change, helping President Obama craft remarks on every topic for every audience. In this actionable ...

Described as the “Springsteen” of President Obama’s White House, and nicknamed “Hemingway” by Obama himself, Cody Keenan served as White House Director of Speechwriting during moments of challenge and change, helping President Obama craft remarks on every topic for every audience. In this actionable and illuminating talk, Keenan share his lessons on narrative and powerful, authentic storytelling. Whether your intended audience is employees, customers and clients, or the world at large, Keenan breaks down how to build an effective communications strategy and hone a message that resonates.

The Crisis Timeline

Every organization will face a crisis at some point. In this presentation, you’ll learn how to manage the mess and protect your reputation - but you’ll also learn how to alter the timeline and prevent a crisis in the first place. President Obama’s chief speechwriter takes the audience through three ...

Every organization will face a crisis at some point. In this presentation, you’ll learn how to manage the mess and protect your reputation - but you’ll also learn how to alter the timeline and prevent a crisis in the first place. President Obama’s chief speechwriter takes the audience through three types of crises his team handled in the White House, then reveals the tricks of their “Pre-Crisis” unit that averted many more.

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<p><strong>Cody Keenan’s New York Times bestselling debut book ‘Grace’ takes audiences behind the scenes of the battle for America</strong></p>

Cody Keenan’s New York Times bestselling debut book ‘Grace’ takes audiences behind the scenes of the battle for America

Renowned speechwriter and messaging expert CODY KEENAN offers an unparalleled point of view in his debut book, the New York Times bestselling memoir Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America. Having risen from a campaign intern in Chicago to the Chief Speechwriter in Obama’s White House, Keenan shares behind-the-scenes moments — from Obama’s suggestion that Keenan pour a drink, listen to some Miles Davis, and “find the silences,” to the president’s late-night writing sessions in the First Family’s residence. Spanning the ten most dramatic days of Obama’s presidency, when a hate-fueled massacre and looming Supreme Court decisions put the character of our country on the line, Keenan takes us inside the craft of speechwriting at the highest level for the most demanding of bosses, the relentlessly poetic and perfectionist Barack Obama.

In this highly anticipated book, as in sought-after speaking engagements, Keenan reveals how words have the power to bring the nation together or tear it apart. The publisher, Sugar23 Books – an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media – says the book will chronicle “a whirlwind of dramatic moments too implausible for a full season of ‘The West Wing’,” according to Variety. Sugar23 Books adds, “’Grace’ offers an extraordinary glimpse into the mind of President Obama, and it introduces another prolific American thinker to the world, Cody himself.”

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<p><strong>Cody Keenan's convocation address earns tweets of praise </strong></p>

Cody Keenan's convocation address earns tweets of praise 

White House Director of Speechwriting (2013-2017) CODY KEENAN delivered an awe-inspiring convocation address at Northwestern University for an audience of 15,000. Delivering plenty of jokes and insights, Keenan described his career and rise to the West Wing, shedding light on perseverance, landing your dream job, and political dynamics in Washington. A speechwriter for President Obama for over a decade, Keenan got his start as a campaign intern in Chicago, and currently serves as Obama's collaborator on his upcoming book and as his post-presidential speechwriter. Through times of challenge and change, Keenan helped Obama craft remarks on every topic for every audience – from tiny backyards in Iowa to the biggest stadiums in the country. 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.” Keenan shared his political idealism with the Northwestern audience, highlighting what politics has the power to do, even amid divisive times. NowThis Politics posted a clip of the speech on Facebook, and it quickly racked up over 400 thousand views. Keenan's inspiring and compelling remarks garnered countless tweets of praise such as: "Thanks again for a moment of hope...hope and grace" and "Great message to the Wildcat class (and to the rest of us).

Watch Cody Keenan's speech at Northwestern University >>
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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.