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Obama Tucson memorial speech: Penned by Chicago native Cody Keenan

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WASHINGTON -- President Obama's memorable Tucson speech, where he appealed to the nation to "heal," not "wound," was written in part by a Chicago native and a 2002 Northwestern graduate Cody Keenan.

Keenan, 30, was born in Lake View. He lived there till he was 5, when his family moved to Evanston and Wilmette (where he attended Central Elementary and Wilmette Junior High) before heading to Connecticut for high school.

With experience on Capitol Hill working for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, Keenan hooked up with the Obama presidential campaign in 2007 as an intern with the speechwriting operation while he was a graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

He returned to Harvard to finished his master's of public policy degree and rejoined the Obama team in 2008, moving into a White House slot to continue speechwriting duties.

"Our jobs are remarkably like graduate school. You get a paper assignment, you might pull an all-nighter or come in really early to finish, and you hand it in and then you get his marks back and find out whether he likes it or not," Keenan said in an interview with a KSG alumni publication. "The good thing is he'll make detailed edits when he gets the speech, and he's generous with his time -- he'll walk us through the edits and explain why he made them. That makes us better writers."

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, discussing the speech on Air Force One returning to Washington from Tucson, said Obama had his first conversation with Keenan about the speech "probably late on Monday. And what they usually do is the president will -- they'll bring a laptop in and the president will download a little bit on what he'd like to say."

"The president sent Cody . . . edits back to Cody, which would have been this morning about 1 a.m. So he's been working on -- he'd been working on the speech most of the day. They made edits even after we landed in Arizona."

Obama's speech has gotten good reviews, for content and hitting the right pitch.

Did Obama feel good about the speech, Gibbs was asked.

The reply: "He did."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 14, 2011 7:17 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Jan. 14, 2011. Holbrooke funeral was the previous entry in this blog.

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