NEW YORK – The White House speechwriter who helped President Barack Obama work on his response to the Charleston church massacre in June 2015 has a book deal. Cody Keenan's memoir is set around the time a white supremacist murdered nine Black parishioners in South Carolina.
“Grace: A President, His Speechwriter, and Ten Days in the Battle for America” will be published in Fall 2022, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media announced Tuesday.
Kennan will note that the Charleston tragedy was soon followed by other historic events. Within days, protesters called for the removal of the Confederate flag that had long flown on Statehouse grounds in Columbia, a demand met that July. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court announced two historic decisions, ruling that same-sex marriage was protected under the Constitution and upholding much of Obama's Affordable Care Act.
The book's title refers to a theme of Obama's response to Charleston and to one of the most emotional moments of his presidency: his singing of “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for one of the victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
"'Grace' started with a string of tweets on the second anniversary of that week,” Keenan said in a statement issued through the Houghton Mifflin imprint Sugar23 Books.
“At first, all I wanted to do was tell a story to show what this country can be at its best and what writing with Barack Obama is actually like when the stakes are highest. The years since have only added context to how those 10 days help make sense of the broader sweep of American progress and backlash, this clash of two fundamentally opposing visions of America — and this feels like the right time to finally sit down and write it all up.”
Keenan began working with Obama in 2007, when the future president was a first-term senator from Illinois. Keenan served as deputy director of speechwriting during Obama's first term and as director during Obama's second term. Other presidential addresses he worked on included Obama's eulogy for Sen. Edward Kennedy in 2009 and his 2015 speech marking the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday," when state troopers in Selma, Alabama, beat and teargassed civil rights marchers.