The president of the United States stood at the podium, faced members of a Black church who had just lost nine parishioners in a racist attack, and offered comfort, not only with words, but with silence. After twelve seconds, Barack Obama sang the hymn that had been a comfort in moments of crisis for generations. Amazing Grace.
In his new book, "Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America," former White House Chief Speechwriter Cody Keenan recounts how he and the president collaborated on writing what would become the 44th president's most memorable speech. He describes how he worked with Obama to "find the silences," and how he spent several long days crafting the eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson.
Cody is also filled with nuggets about what it was like to work closely with the president, and has numerous insights into how his mind worked. My favorite question: what were the two souvenirs he took from the White House after working there for eight years? (Hint: they weren't physical objects!) And wait until you hear how the speech lives on in the life of his family...
Keenan's website can be found at https://codykeenan.com
He is on social media at https://twitter.com/codykeenan
More information about his book, "Grace," can be found at https://www.harpercollins.com/products/grace-cody-keenan?variant=39970831597602
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