« | »

Obama Reads Books – And What Books

Not even the “Books” section of the New York Times is spared from its Obama-mania:

Barack Obama arrived in Bozeman, Mont., for a campaign rally in May 2008 carrying Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World.”

From Books, New President Found Voice

Published: January 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — In college, as he was getting involved in protests against the apartheid government in South Africa, Barack Obama noticed, he has written, “that people had begun to listen to my opinions.” Words, the young Mr. Obama realized, had the power “to transform”: “with the right words everything could change -— South Africa, the lives of ghetto kids just a few miles away, my own tenuous place in the world.”

Much has been made of Mr. Obama’s eloquence — his ability to use words in his speeches to persuade and uplift and inspire. But his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while contextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.

Mr. Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father” (which surely stands as the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president), suggests that throughout his life he has turned to books as a way of acquiring insights and information from others — as a means of breaking out of the bubble of self-hood and, more recently, the bubble of power and fame. He recalls that he read James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and W. E. B. Du Bois when he was an adolescent in an effort to come to terms with his racial identity and that later, during an ascetic phase in college, he immersed himself in the works of thinkers like Nietzsche and St. Augustine in a spiritual-intellectual search to figure out what he truly believed.

As a boy growing up in Indonesia, Mr. Obama learned about the American civil rights movement through books his mother gave him. Later, as a fledgling community organizer in Chicago, he found inspiration in “Parting the Waters,” the first installment of Taylor Branch’s multivolume biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

More recently, books have supplied Mr. Obama with some concrete ideas about governance: it’s been widely reported that “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln’s decision to include former opponents in his cabinet, informed Mr. Obama’s decision to name his chief Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as Secretary of State. In other cases, books about F. D. R.’s first hundred days in office and Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars,“ about Afghanistan and the C.I.A., have provided useful background material on some of the myriad challenges Mr. Obama will face upon taking office

Mr. Obama tends to take a magpie approach to reading — ruminating upon writers’ ideas and picking and choosing those that flesh out his vision of the world or open promising new avenues of inquiry…

Like “Dreams From My Father,” many of the novels Mr. Obama reportedly admires deal with the question of identity: Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” concerns a man’s efforts to discover his origins and come to terms with his roots; Doris Lessing’s “Golden Notebook” recounts a woman’s struggles to articulate her own sense of self; and Ellison’s “Invisible Man” grapples with the difficulty of self-definition in a race-conscious America and the possibility of transcendence. The poems of Elizabeth Alexander, whom Mr. Obama chose as his inaugural poet, probe the intersection between the private and the political, time present and time past, while the verse of Derek Walcott (a copy of whose collected poems was recently glimpsed in Mr. Obama’s hands) explores what it means to be a “divided child,” caught on the margins of different cultures, dislocated and rootless perhaps, but free to invent a new self…

The incandescent power of Lincoln’s language, its resonance and rhythmic cadences, as well as his ability to shift gears between the magisterial and the down-to-earth, has been a model for Mr. Obama — who has said he frequently rereads Lincoln for inspiration — and so, too, have been the uses to which Lincoln put his superior language skills: to goad Americans to complete the unfinished work of the founders, and to galvanize a nation reeling from hard times with a new vision of reconciliation and hope.

Isn’t that wonderful? Imagine, a President who actually reads books.

And what books. Narcissistic, race-baiting, navel-gazing books.

Preposterously uninformed , such as the anti-American alarmist screed, The Post-American World, featured in the photo above.

From Amazon’s reviews:

Review From The Washington Post

After the Iraq war, Fareed Zakaria argued in his Newsweek column that the world’s new organizing principle was pro- or anti-Americanism. But as the Iraq muddle drags on and China rises, the larger story of the post-Cold War era has come into sharp relief: We are not the center of the universe. It matters less that particular countries are pro- or anti-American than that the world is increasingly non-American. We need to get over ourselves.

Zakaria’s The Post-American World is about the "rise of the rest," a catchy phrase from one of the most widely cited writers on foreign affairs. His prism is correct: We should focus more on the "rest," even if America is still the premier superpower. But within this broad approach, Zakaria leaves policy-makers to figure out how to rank challenges and restore U.S. legitimacy

Ironically, the final third of The Post-American World, which focuses on us rather than on "the rest," is the strongest. Zakaria argues that America’s world-beating economic vibrancy co-exists with a dysfunctional political system. "A ‘can-do’ country is now saddled with a ‘do-nothing’ political process, designed for partisan battle rather than problem solving," he writes. That makes it hard to devise a grand strategy, and Zakaria offers just a few "simple guidelines" on the need to set priorities, build global rules and be flexible. But in this non-American world, it may be too late to restore U.S. leadership. "The rest" is moving on

Don’t you feel better already?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, January 19th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

13 Responses to “Obama Reads Books – And What Books”

  1. joeblough says:

    One of the better arguments I’ve seen for insisting on the “Great Books” curriculum.

    Let the kids read superficial, derivative trash and you get, well … an Obama.

    • Steve says:

      “One of the better arguments I’ve seen for insisting on the “Great Books” curriculum.”

      Well, look what it did for me.

    • DW says:

      Well, look what it did for me.

      Now if any of the rest of us had said that, we’d be an instant clay pigeon. lol.

      Maybe we should all chip in and send him a copy of Guilty.
      (which I just finished today and is excellent – on a par with Treason)

  2. caligirl9 says:

    Wait a minute here … he read books to learn how to “be black?”

    Oh boy.

    “People had begun to listen to my opinions.”

    Anti-apartheid talk had begun long before TCO was in college. So he’s responsible for that too?

    Reagan was the Great Communicator. Call TCO the Great Regurgitatator, chock full of none of his own ideas.

  3. proreason says:

    Does he read any books that do not increase his loathing of his white half, and of the country?

  4. Confucius says:

    What an enlightened colonoscopy.

    At least I now know why He’s incomprehensible. Toni Morrison? Puh’leeze.

    Notice He didn’t list The Bible which contains His favorite book, Matthews.

  5. VMAN says:

    What I want to know is how does one pick up crap like this and actually get through it. I know there are many learned people that post on S&L and that many of you have read this garbage so that you know your enemy. I salute you!!!! I personally don’t need to pick up a rattle snake to find out that it’s poisonous (no offense to all the snake handlers out there). This guy reads this crap and believes it and shapes his beliefs around it.

  6. 1sttofight says:

    So in other words, he just is not capable of independent thoughts of his own. He always has to copy someone else.

    How refreshing.

  7. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    Our new president would enlighten himself much better if he read such books like the Bible, Sun Tzu-The Art of War, the works of Von Clausewitz, The Wealth of Nations, and it couldn’t hurt to read a little Tom Clancy or my current favorite-Vince Flynn. They say you are what you eat but the same could be said of what you read.

  8. The Redneck says:

    –Wait a minute here … he read books to learn how to “be black?”–

    He was born in Hawaii, spent his entire life in private schools, and rode family money into a prestigious college. He knows absolutely nothing about the lives of black people who have to earn a living.

    Unfortunately, somebody has yet to clue him in–he also knows absolutely nothing about the lives of white, hispanic, asian, or indian people who have to earn a living. Maybe if they had, his reading list would expand a little.

  9. Barbie says:

    I’d say on the bulls*** scale of one to seven with seven being the highest degree of bulls*** possible, I would rate this article ‘From Books, New President Found Voice’ as an ‘8.0’

  10. Paulajay says:

    Obama should read “Atlas Shrugged”. Then he would understand how his socialist policies will destroy our Country.

« Front Page | To Top
« | »