Early Childhood & Education
Cody Keenan is a son of retired advertising executives. He was born in 1981. Both his parents were professionals, who lived in Lake View, Chicago.
They later moved to Evanston, Illinois for some years before relocating to Wilmette, Illinois, and later Ridgefield, Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Keenan attended High School while the family reside in Connecticut.
He proceeded to Northwestern University for his first Degree, although he started out at the University as a pre-medical student, with the dream of becoming an Orthopaedic surgeon.
He later changed his major to the Chinese Language, International studies, and finally, Political science, graduating in the year 2002.
Keenan had a Master’s Degree in Public Policy at theJohn F. Kennedy School of Government, studying Speechwriting and delivery under world renown political strategist, Steve Jarding.
Keenan’s political career began with the internship in the mailroom of Kennedy’s Senate office in 2003, before going on to become the Senator’s legislative aide.
After a stint as a staff assistant for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“I started as an unpaid intern in a windowless mailroom. But there, reading letters both hopeful and heartbreaking from everyday Americans to their elected leaders, I learned just why it is that politics and public service matters so much. I never forgot it – not as a policy aide and not as a speechwriter.”
In 2007, Keenan took a summer internship in speechwriting on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, working under Jon Favreau, the former Director of Speechwriting in Obama’s first term at White House, before returning to the Kennedy School to finish the second year of his studies.
He remained involved in the campaign during the year, flying to Iowa during the Christmas break to give strategic support in preparation for the Iowa caucuses.
after Hillary Clinton accepted defeat in June 2008, Keenan returned as a full-time staff on Obama’s presidential campaign.
After the election, Keenan continued in the role as Deputy Director of Speechwriting, working on a speech such as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, the President’s eulogy for Ted Kennedy in 2009, and the Presidents address after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, among other speeches.
Before Favreau’s departure from the White House in March 2013, Keenan took the lead on writing theState of the Union Addressin January 2013.
In March 2013, Keenan was promoted to White House Director of Speechwriting, with overall responsibility for all speechwriting of the President.
A writer in The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt one remarked that unlike Favreau, “who was known for his ability to write lofty, big-picture speeches …
Mr Keenan interest focuses far more on “individual, hard-work stories as parables for what is difficult but still possible in America.”
Cody Keenan has been a speechwriter for President Barack Obama for nearly a decade, rising from a campaign non-paying intern in Chicago to Director of Speechwriting at the White House.
He was 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.
He was also a member of the Sigma Chi International Fraternity was recognized him with its Significant Sig Award.
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 21stCentury,” andcategorisedeven by prominent Republicans as “speeches that every child should read in school.”
Keenan told a group recently that best speeches come from collaborations and in-depth research remain the bedrock of any good speeches.
He said working with a brand like Obama was free of any hassle due to the way both of them collaborate in speeches.
“It doesn’t matter how good a speechwriter is if one is delivering and it can’t articulate well,” Keenan explained.
While advising some New York University graduates a few years ago, he said,
”My general rule is, if you wouldn’t say that to a friend in a bar, don’t make me put it in a speech”.
In 2015, Keenan wrote the speech delivered by Obama to mark the 50th anniversary ofBloody Sunday.
In June 2015, Keenan gave a commencement address to the Robert F. Wagner
“Our jobs are remarkably like graduate school. You get a paper assignment, you might pull an all-nighter or come in really early to finish, and you hand it in and then you get his marks back and find out whether he likes it or not,”
“The good thing is he’ll make detailed edits when he gets the speech, and he’s generous with his time — he’ll walk us through the edits and explain why he made them. That makes us better writers.”Keenan told a Kennedy School of Government Interviewer in 2010.
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.
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.”
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.
We hope you have enjoyed exploring Cody Keenan biography and his success story at the younger age of 26 in the White House have inspired you to new discoveries.
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