The speechwriter behind Obama’s Irish references

Barack Obama has given some 3,000 speeches since entering the White House in 2009, and about 1 percent of them have included strong references to Ireland. That might not seem like much at first glance, but there’s hardly another country or subject that gets as many mentions from the presidential podium.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

“The Irish have a stranglehold on one full day,” Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan told the 15 September gathering of Irish Network-DC. “They get three speeches on St. Patrick’s Day.”

That’s 24 speeches over eight years. Other notable Obama talks involving Ireland have included his May 2011 visit to the Republic and June 2013 trip to Northern Ireland, plus his 2009 eulogy of Sen. Ted Kennedy and  2015 remarks at the funeral of Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden.

For Keenan, an Irish-American with ancestral roots to Dublin and Cork, the 2011 College Green speech was a plum assignment. “It’s rare you get to write about something you have such personal passion about,” he said.

Keenan noted that the president “is his own chief speechwriter. … We take all our cues from him.”