“Read constantly! Read everything you can! The more you read, the more ideas you will have!” These words disseminated throughout the Eastin Family Innovation Lab on Friday, September 14 during a special gathering with Cody Keenan, speech writer for former President Barack Obama. Lamplighter’s third and fourth grade students were the lucky participants in this assembly about the writing process.
For the past 11 years, Cody Keenan has been writing speeches for President Barack Obama. In fact, Keenan shared that President Obama had just delivered a speech (written by Keenan) in Ohio the previous night! Lamplighter students and teachers were further amazed when they learned that President Obama gave a total of 3,577 speeches while in the White House, many of which were written by Keenan.
During the special gathering, Keenan led students through a lively, interactive presentation about the writing process. He began by soliciting ideas from the students about speech topics. Hands were enthusiastically raised, proposing an array of topics from “why ice cream for dinner is a good idea” to “why it is important to recycle.” As many topics were suggested, Keenan guided the students through ways to structure a speech, including preparing supporting points and counter arguments, as well as ways to start and end a speech, and the importance of knowing your audience. The third and fourth grader students also shared their ideas about what would make a strong speech, such as humor, researching your facts, and working well with others. Keenan built on this idea noting, “A good speech should be a collaboration of the person delivering it and the person writing it,” adding that empathy and trust are critical to a successful partnership in speech writing.
Throughout the gathering, Keenan took the time to answer many questions posed by the inquisitive students related to all aspects of speech writing. At the conclusion of the visit, fourth graders had the unique opportunity to interview Keenan for an upcoming Flash news broadcast. A report of this special assembly will be shared in the next Flash! In closing, Keenan reminded the audience that “the best speech writers are the best readers.” Keep reading!