Obama Speechwriter Promises ‘Call To Action’ In President’s Farewell Message

(CBS) — It was President Obama himself who asked if a president’s farewell speech had to be delivered in Washington.

When told he could do it wherever he wanted, he responded: “OK, let’s go to Chicago.”

CBS 2 Special Contributor Jay Levine spoke with the Chicagoan who wrote Tuesday night’s speech and thousands of others for the president.

Cody Keenan has been with Barack Obama since joining his first presidential campaign, as an intern, back in 2007. Now director of speechwriting, he travels with the president on Air Force One, making last-minute revisions to speeches — perhaps none as meaningful as the one the president will deliver at McCormick Place.

“Every president gets a last speech, that’s just happens by nature,” says Keenan, who is glad “to be able to do it in Chicago, my hometown, his hometown, but more importantly, the place where his career began.

“He’ll get to reflect on the thread that runs through his career, which is when you bring people together and they get engaged and organized, that’s when good things happen.”

The speechwriter adds: “He’ll probably get a little choked up talking about it, because it means a lot to him.”

Keenan describes the speech as a “a call to action for a new generation of activists.”

The Wrigleyville and North Shore native, who graduated from Northwestern, has had his share of serious as well as humorous moments with the President. They agree on most topics, except baseball.

Keenan is a Cubs fan, unlike his boss, who is a White Sox fan.

“I was there for the world series, Games 3 4 and 5,” he says.

How did he get the time to attend?

“I didn’t ask,” Keenan says. “He’s busted me before. He called me once earlier this year on my cell phone at night to ask about a speech and heard the organ in the background and he said, ‘Are you at a Cubs game?’ and I said, ‘Yes, but I’m taking the first flight back tomorrow. I didn’t think you’d know.’”

Until and unless the Cubs visit the White House before Obama leaves, Keenan’s favorite moment involves another Chicago sports team: the 1985 Bears. Members of that celebrated team visited in 2011.

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