The Fifth Estate

View all events in this series

at The Wheeler Centre

The President’s Pen

‘What’s a POTUS?’

Pat Cunnane, aged 22, asked a co-worker this question on one of his first days working at the White House. It’s safe to say he figured out the answer pretty quickly, rising from his first job as White House media monitor to become the senior writer and deputy director for messaging for the POTUS himself, Barack Obama.

In Cunnane’s new book, West Winging It: An Unpresidential Memoir, he gives fascinating insider’s account of his six years working at the heart of the Obama administration. During these years, Cunnane wrangled reporters and photographers and wrote statements, opinion pieces and even jokes in the former President’s voice. He was there for the big moments and the small and he was there, of course, for the surprise transition to Donald Trump.

With Sally Warhaft, Cunnane will discuss what it’s like writing the words that would shape hearts and minds of a nation, and the world. He’ll also share his thoughts on the American presidency then and now, talking Trump and Twitter; history and hope.

This event will be Auslan interpreted.


Portrait of Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer and the host of the Wheeler Centre’s live journalism series, the Fifth Estate, now in its sixth year. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.

Portrait of Pat Cunnane

Pat Cunnane

Pat Cunnane was President Barack Obama’s Senior Writer and Deputy Director of Messaging at the White House where he worked for six years in many roles, responsible for writing statements, jokes, op-eds, and more in the President’s voice. After leaving the White House, Pat Cunnane co-wrote the President’s appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which quickly shattered the series’ viewership records and garnered an Emmy nomination.

The Fifth Estate

Sally Warhaft has been the Wheeler Centre’s in-house news anchor since 2012. In 2018 – over 100 episodes in – the anthropologist, broadcaster and intrepid interviewer’s fortnightly live series continues, as she responds to the most important debates of the day and reignites stories that have fallen off the front pages.

Every second Tuesday, Sally hosts a dizzying array of guests from the worlds of politics, culture, international relations and beyond, in a witty and revealing analysis of current affairs. It’s an event series and a live podcast taping rolled into one. Topical guests are announced in the weeks prior to events: keep an eye on our website (or in the Wheeler Weekly) for updates.


Catch up with anything you've missed — subscribe to the Fifth Estate podcast.


Follow the discussion on Twitter. #TWCFifthEstate


More about this venue, including large map, parking, public transport and accessibility.