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Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan to discuss elections, White House Nov. 12

Cody Keenan, speechwriter to former President Barack Obama and Northwestern University visiting professor of political science, and Josh Earnest, Obama’s former press secretary, will speak on the Evanston campus Monday, Nov. 12.

The event, hosted by the Northwestern College Democrats, the Associated Student Government (ASG) and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, will begin at 8:30 p.m. at Norris McCormick Auditorium, 1999 Campus Dr and is open to the Northwestern community and the public. The conversation between "old friends" will be moderated by Medill professor Peter Slevin, who has authored a biography on former First Lady Michelle Obama. Keenan and Earnest will discuss the White House, the midterms and the future of the Democratic Party. A Q&A with students will follow the event.

“Getting a job in politics can be hard,” Keenan said. “We want to demystify it.”

Keenan, Obama’s collaborator on an upcoming memoir and his post-presidential speechwriter, has returned to Northwestern this year as a distinguished lecturer in the department of political science to teach a course on speechwriting.

Keenan, who graduated from Northwestern in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, said the best part of his return has been getting to spend time with students. He hopes the sentiment is mutual.

“It’s a give-and-take," he said. "I offer whatever hard-earned advice I can on a career in politics and public service, and I take from their optimism and idealism."

Reuniting not only with Northwestern but with Earnest, who is a friend and former White House colleague, Keenan said they have some “pretty great stories” to share Monday about circling the world with Obama.

“We both worked in the White House from Day 1 to Day 2,922,” Keenan said. “And (Earnest) finally took my advice to move to the greatest city in the world. (I’m talking about Chicago.)”

Earnest, who was voted “best press secretary to work with” in 2015 by White House correspondents surveyed by Politico, initially worked for Obama’s presidential campaign as its Iowa communications director before going on to work as deputy communications director during the 2008 election and White House Press Secretary from 2014 to 2017.

After more than two decades of experience in the world of strategic communications, Earnest now leads global communications strategy at United Airlines as the senior vice president and chief communications officer of the company. Prior to his hire at United Airlines, Earnest worked as a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

“I think I can speak for Josh when I say that I’d do it all over again  — but we want a new generation to take our place,” Keenan said.

- This article was written by Northwestern student Sofia Sanchez

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