Hunter College Schools
“At a time when the meaning of America is up for grabs, Cody Keenan’s new book chronicles 10 days that tested us and ultimately showed us at our best. It’s a captivating story about what’s worth fighting for, an antidote to cynicism that will make you believe again.”—President Barack Obama
Roosevelt House is pleased to present a discussion of Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America by speechwriter Cody Keenan. The author will be in conversation with fellow alum of the Obama administration, former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.
Spellbinding and propulsive, Grace delivers a detailed account of what Keenan considers the 10 most dramatic days of the Obama presidency. During that short but critically important period in June 2015, the nation faced a hate-fueled massacre in Charleston, a reckoning with race and the Confederate flag, and looming Supreme Court decisions on the fate of marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act. As Keenan writes, this succession of stunning developments put the character of the country on the line and set the stage for the most eagerly anticipated—and most consequential—words of Obama’s presidency.
Taking readers inside the craft of speechwriting at the highest level for the most demanding of bosses, Grace provides a fascinating portrait of White House insiders and the team responsible for a series of high-stakes speeches during this historic stretch. Keenan grants readers access to an array of poignant and powerful behind-the-scenes moments—from the president’s late-night writing sessions in the First Family’s residence to Obama’s suggestion that Keenan pour a drink, listen to some Miles Davis, and “find the silences.”
The book culminates with an unforgettable high point: Obama stunning the nation by taking a deep breath and leading the country in a chorus of “Amazing Grace.”
Cody Keenan rose from a campaign intern in Chicago to become chief speechwriter at the White House and Barack Obama’s post-presidential collaborator. A sought-after expert on politics, messaging, and current affairs, Keenan is a partner at leading speechwriting firm Fenway Strategies and teaches a course on political speechwriting at his alma mater, Northwestern University. He began his career in politics in the mailroom, then as a legislative aide, at the office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy before earning a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ben Rhodes is a contributor for NBC News and MSNBC; co-host of Pod Save the World; a senior advisor to former President Barack Obama; and chair of National Security Action. From 2009-2017 he served as a Deputy National Security Advisor in the Obama White House. In that capacity, he participated in all of President Obama’s key decisions and oversaw the President’s national security communications, speechwriting, and public diplomacy. He is the author of The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House and After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made.