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-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 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 types of crises his team handled in the White House, then reveals the tricks of their “Pre-Crisis” unit that averted many more.
Cody Keenan in the News
Here is a sampling of CODY KEENAN's media appearances:
1.30.2019 The State Of The State Of The Union | 1A
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 >>
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.
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.Watch Cody Keenan share what it takes to write a great speech >>
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.