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Obama speechwriter to visit Northwestern

Alumnus Cody Keenan to participate in political discussion with Professor Peter Slevin

Northwestern alumnus Cody Keenan, who served as former president Barack Obama's chief speechwriter, will visit Evanston April 11.
Northwestern alumnus Cody Keenan (Weinberg '02), who served as former president Barack Obama's chief speechwriter, will visit Evanston April 11.

Cody Keenan, Weinberg ’02, former President Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter, and Peter Slevin, a Medill professor and journalist, will participate in a conversation on the legacy of the Obamas and the future of American politics, hosted by the student-run Contemporary Thought Speaker Series (CTSS).

The event will be held in Harris Hall 107 at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 11. Tickets are not required for the event, and seating will be first-come, first-served. Doors to the event will open at 6 p.m.

“With so much recent interest in politics, we are excited to welcome Cody back to campus,” said Ben Zimmermann, co-chair of CTSS. “Cody and Professor Slevin should inspire a really interesting, impactful and relevant dialogue on politics of the past, present and future.”

A 2002 graduate of the University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Keenan was promoted to director of speechwriting for the Obama administration in 2013 and continued in that role through Obama’s second term. He worked on speeches, including the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” in Selma, Alabama, multiple State of the Union addresses and the President’s farewell speech in Chicago. Keenan continues to work for former President Obama today.

In 2007, Keenan joined the Obama campaign as an intern before joining the White House as deputy director of speechwriting. In that role, he led the crafting of many renowned speeches, including President Obama’s address after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in 2011.

Keenan moved to Washington after graduation to work for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Slevin is an associate professor at Medill, where he teaches classes on world affairs, politics and the media. He previously spent 12 years as a staff writer for the Washington Post, and is the author of “Michelle Obama: A Life,” an acclaimed biography of First Lady Michelle Obama.

The panel discussion will be the third event of the Contemporary Thought Speaker Series this year. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Academy Award-wining filmmaker Barry Jenkins spoke earlier this year. Past CTSS speakers include Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, journalist Sarah Koenig, hip-hop artist Killer Mike, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and activist Angela Davis.

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