Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America (Paperback)
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“At a time when the meaning of America is up for grabs, Cody Keenan’s new book chronicles ten days that tested us and ultimately showed us at our best. It’s a captivating story about what’s worth fighting for, an antidote to cynicism that will make you believe again.”—President Barack Obama, via Twitter
From Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter Cody Keenan, a spellbinding account of the ten most dramatic days of the presidency, when a hate-fueled massacre and looming Supreme Court decisions put the character of our country on the line, and a president’s words could bring the nation together or tear it apart.
A white supremacist shooting and an astonishing act of forgiveness. A national reckoning with race and the Confederate flag. The fate of marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act. Grace is the propulsive story of ten days in June 2015, when Obama and his chief speechwriter Cody Keenan composed a series of high-stakes speeches to meet a succession of stunning developments.
Through behind-the-scenes moments—from Obama’s suggestion that Keenan pour a drink, listen to some Miles Davis, and “find the silences,” to the president’s late-night writing sessions in the First Family’s residence—Keenan takes us inside the craft of speechwriting at the highest level for the most demanding of bosses, the relentlessly poetic and perfectionist Barack Obama. Grace also delivers a fascinating portrait of White House insiders like Ben Rhodes, Valerie Jarrett, Jen Psaki, and the speechwriting team responsible for pulling it all off during a furious, historic stretch of the Obama presidency—including a gifted fact-checker who took Keenan’s rhetoric to task before taking his hand in marriage. Grace is the most intimate writing that exists on the rhetorical tightrope our first Black president had to walk, culminating with an unforgettable high point: Obama stunning everybody by taking a deep breath and leading the country in a chorus of “Amazing Grace.”
About the Author
Cody Keenan rose from a campaign intern in Chicago to become chief speechwriter at the White House and Barack Obama’s post-presidential collaborator. A sought-after expert on politics, messaging, and current affairs, he is a partner at leading speechwriting firm Fenway Strategies and teaches a popular course on political speechwriting at his alma mater Northwestern University. He lives in New York City with his wife Kristen and their daughter Gracie.
“At a time when the meaning of America is up for grabs, Cody Keenan's new book chronicles ten days that tested us and ultimately showed us at our best. It’s a captivating story about what’s worth fighting for, an antidote to cynicism that will make you believe again.” — President Barack Obama, via Twitter
“Grace is a beautifully written, gripping tale of a monumental week in the life of America. As a political memoir, it is a masterpiece, rendering the White House’s characters—including President Barack Obama—in deeply human terms, with unforgettable behind-the-scenes accounts of how history was made. But in Grace, Cody Keenan does something even deeper by opening up the chilling rise of white supremacism, delving into the horrific costs of racial injustice in America, and showing how—with courage, decency, and a rich, expansive form of patriotism—our better angels can prevail.” — Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Problem from Hell and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
"Grace is an exuberant love letter to public service and a beautifully written record of how a President and his speechwriter faced down the darkest demons of American identity to offer a better, truer story of who we can be. At a time when cynicism and apathy endanger democracy, Cody Keenan lets us all experience how it felt to be in the room and reminds us of the things that are worth fighting for.” — Ben Rhodes, author of The World As It Is
““Cody Keenan's Grace, like the speeches he wrote with President Obama, is a compelling force. People of faith will know the ‘grace’ of which Cody and Obama speak; political and history buffs will appreciate the look inside these tragic, triumphant moments; and all Americans will be moved to tears of sorrow and joy through Cody’s retelling. Grace is what’s needed in our country right now, and Keenan's Grace is likewise a needed, essential read.” — Joshua DuBois, spiritual advisor to President Obama and author of The President’s Devotional
“Cody Keenan has the heart of a novelist, the agile mind of an historian, and the acuity of someone who knows politics inside out. This remarkable book speaks in epic ways to the beauty and turmoil of the intimate moments that shape our lives. This is a hero’s journey, told with humility, insight and of course, grace.” — Colum McCann, National Book Award–winning author of Let the Great World Spin
“At a time when cynicism permeates every ounce of our news and our politics, reading this hopeful, inspiring, gorgeous book is as refreshing as skinny dipping in a mountain lake. Grace is an invigorating reminder of the power each of us have to change the things for the better. Read this book! And then buy another one for your friend who thinks nothing matters and the world is doomed.” — Kal Penn, author of the national bestseller You Can’t Be Serious
“An absorbing book debut with an insider’s view of the pressured, often ‘fucking terrifying’ workings within the White House…a moving portrait of a presidency and its top speechwriter.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A compelling memoir….[Keenan] offers a candid slice of life in a West Wing characterized by camaraderie, integrity, and hard work.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“Uncommonly frank…a rarity in presidential histories these days: an argument for public service.” — Chicago Tribune
“Powerful...a fascinating backstage pass…no matter your political persuasion, Grace is a generous, lively and worthwhile read." — BookPage
“Students of politics will gain an insider’s perspective in presidential power and leadership in time of crisis.” — Booklist
“Grace is a refreshing departure from the flood of scandalous ‘literary’ flotsam that typically washes up in the wake of the transfer of power. . . Like the president he served, Keenan tells his story with conviction, compassion—and amazing grace.”
— Washington Monthly
“[Grace is] less a standard Washington memoir with a scorecard of political wins and losses and more a reflection on the painful process of forging change. It’s a meditation on the craft of speech writing itself, and its place in a presidency that, more than most, was rooted in the power of rhetoric.” — CNN’s Meanwhile in America
“There are plenty of romanticized depictions of the presidency on film, TV and written form. And then there is Cody Keenan’s new book, Grace. . . The heart of the book puts political realism to literature — a showcase about how the goal of a White House is often to fend off bad things, claw for incremental progress and, above all else, fight off cynicism.” — Politico
“A much-needed literary remedy…a story that is gripping, nail-biting, and steeped in the best and worst of humanity.” — 48 Hills