Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America

Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780358651895. $29.99. POL SCI
Keenan, former White House Director of Speechwriting under President Barack Obama, writes a compelling memoir of his tenure in the West Wing. A Chicago native and Northwestern graduate, he began his career in the mailroom of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office and worked his way up, eventually earning a master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government. After working on Obama’s presidential campaign, he found a niche as part of a crackerjack speechwriting team, which included Ben Rhodes and Jon Favreau. One of his signature speeches included the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches. The crux of this narrative is the eulogy he crafted for slain Charleston pastor Clementa Pinckney in 2015, which dovetailed with speeches he had to prepare for either outcome of the Supreme Court decisions regarding Obamacare and same-sex marriage. His relationship with the president was collaborative, and Keenan outlines the many drafts that incorporated Obama’s edits, which pushed the author to finesse the speeches and make them substantive and effective. Keenan demonstrates humility at the tasks given him and also offers a candid slice of life in a West Wing characterized by camaraderie, integrity, and hard work.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all readers.
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