Meet the Guy Who Wrote Tonight’s State of the Union Address
He’s only 33! Director of Speechwriting Cody Keenan has battled long nights with “energy cookies” and a Keurig, and tonight, we’ll all see if it was worth it!
The SOTU is said to be mainly about the economy, the challenge of income inequality, his health care overhaul, the Iran nuclear negotiations, and other issues.
Reports are saying that Obama will push for immigration reform, call for raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits, push for some kind of climate change and deliver a warning that when Congress won’t act, he will seek to use his executive powers.
So, what’s the process like? In an article from Yahoo.com, Keenan went over the timeline.
Staring in December, policy aides prepare briefing books with information on various domestic and foreign policy priorities for the President. In early January, Obama huddles with senior advisers to lay out the broad lines of what he wants to say.
Then, staffers search for individual Americans’ whose stories might serve as illustrations during the speech.
After those stories are compiled, a series of “all-nighters” produces a first draft. Five or six drafts follow – Obama, who is heavily involved in the speech, works on it at night.
The president talks to outside experts and historians to help him “find a language in which he could address the problem of growing inequality without being accused of class warfare.” Then makes “cramped but tidy notes” in black pen on a yellow legal pad paper.
He’s been known to cross out entire pages. And he’s picky down to the semi-colons.
When he disagrees with one of Obama’s edits, he says he argues to a certain point, but doesn’t push back aggressively.
Keenan admitted he “rarely” wins those arguments. “And when you do, he never lets you forget that you made him take out something he liked,” Keenan said with a chuckle.
And, by Sunday, it’s usually locked and loaded – with changes after that being only minor.
Before his speech, Obama will most likely request a few minutes alone, with no interruptions, to completely collect himself.
Will you be watching POTUS give his address tonight?