Obama Book Club – Doris Kearns Goodwin

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For most of the past Mondays, I’ve shared with you some of President Obama’s book recommendations as outlined and discussed in this Entertainment Weekly Article.

I’ve tried to share books that I am somewhat familiar with. I am currently listening to the audiobook of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I am slightly distracted by the voice of the narrator, Richard Thomas, known in my childhood as John-Boy on the the popular show from the 1970s, The Waltons. He is the perfect voice to read anything related to the Civil War or this, a biography of Abraham Lincoln and his Administration, his team of rivals.
I’ve been reading a lot of history and biographies lately. Part of that I believe is to show myself how far we’ve fallen but also to be reminded of how much potential we have as a country. We can come back from anything. After all, we came back from the Civil War.We came back from 9/11. We can come back from the Trump Administration.

President Trump could learn a lot from Lincoln and how he worked with his oppositional party. It’s the only way our country can flourish; by coming together for the betterment of all.

The idea of an Obama Book Club was mentioned with humor in an article I read, probably that one I’ve linked to above, and I thought it was a great idea to recommend books that President Obama reads and recommends.

In the following weeks, I will share other “book clubs”, beginning with Emma Watson in one week’s time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing inside our former president’s mind, a man who reads for work, for context, and for pleasure, all good reasons to read and to emulate.

Obama Book Club

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Continuing with our picks to the Obama Book Club, highlighted by this article from Entertainment Weekly, this week’s space goes to Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

I read this book right after reading his biography of Hamilton which was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration for his very popular Broadway msuical, Hamilton: An American Musical.

In both, I really enjoyed Chernow’s style and way of writing. Even as a fan of history, I sometimes find the reading of period writings to be a bit hard on the linguistics inside my head, but I didn’t find that in the Chernow books. In fact, it was strangely easy to imagine Hamilton and his contemporaries speaking and/or writing in hip-hop.

This biography of Founding Father, George Washington showed me a side of President Washington and his family that I hadn’t before seen or heard. It is by no means a simple read, but it is written in a way that is easy to understand. It held my interest throughout and I couldn’t put it down. It was one of those books that when finished, I wanted to read it again.

It has never been more important to recognize and know our history. Starting with the founding of our country as we look at our current global standing and the world around us.

Obama Book Club

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As a writer, I am drawn to other writers and their processes. It is one of the main reasons that I follow pepole like Connie SchultzWil WheatonNeil Gaiman, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Another writer who I follow and get inspiration from was also recently the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

I’ve titled this based on Entertainment Weekly’s  article with a comprehensive list of Mr. Obama’s book recommendations.

Last week, he spoke to the New York Times about how reading and writing was his secret to surviving those White House years.

Beginning today, and for at least the next eight weeks, I will share one his book recommendations. I will also share if I’ve read it or if I plan to read it.

It was recently revealed that President Obama gave his oldest daughter, eighteen-year-old Malia a Kindle filled with books. I actually did this for my mother-in-law a couple of Christmases ago. It’s a wonderful gift for any avid reader. One of the books he put on it for her is The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

That is my first book suggesetion to you.
I have not read this book, but with my introduction about writers, and this book being about a writer and writing, I thought it a perfect initial choice. I have already added it to my reading list for when I get my next Amazon gift card.

The Day He Left

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​[Note: This morning, I saw a prompt on the Writers Write Facebook: Write about the day he left. This immediately came to mind.]

It was dark when I woke up. It shouldn’t have been so dark at that time of morning, but the cloud cover and the grey skies combined to make the picture of a sad morning. The grey even seeped through the leaves of the tall trees outside the window, like a fog rolling in, obfuscating the electric lines and the roofs of the nearby houses, seemingly covering over the reality of the coming day. I should have really still been asleep. I tried. I really did, tossing and turning, each shift causing a spring to poke me in awkward places from my twenty-five year old mattress. It’s needed replacing for at least fifteen years; probably more. I finally gave in. I couldn’t sleep anymore. I would stop trying to. I also didn’t want to spend this last day in bed. 

I closed my eyes and tried to pretend that today was just an ordinary day. I could hear the drip drip drip on the window ledge from the melting snow on the roof. The garbage trucks and school buses roared by, with each collecting their charges, the wet ground spraying water from their tires, the squelch as they stopped and then went again at the stop sign on the corner.

Today’s list of things to do includes a shower, buying a new (functioning) toilet, and possibly making a plan for my aunt’s ninety-fifth birthday next month. It does not include watching the news.

While dull in color, and heavy in weight, everything else around seems vibrant in feeling; not bright or brightly colored, but palpable in dread, an overhanging sad as the minutes tick down until the moment he does leave.

Twelve noon and it’s finished.

It’s the end of the second term of the first Black President, and at a very young fifty-five, he enters citizenship with more to do; much more. Books to write, a library to build and fill, a well deserved vacation, and politics as a citizen, just like me. Well, not quite.

I won’t talk about his successor. There’s no need. We’re going to have the next four years of twenty-four hour news cycles and nonsense from all sides. He matters at 12:01, but until that moment, we continue to enjoy and remember the Obama Presidency.

The sweet little girls who came into our lives eight years ago who are now young women, one starting college in the fall, and one finishing her two years of high school. Lovely, smart, kind by all accounts. They are a beautiful reflection of their parents and the good job they’ve done despite the scrutiny and the lack of privacy. They’ve done well, and I’m certain they will continue to do well.

Their mom, who left her career for another, unpaid one as First Lady pulling all of her priorities as a Mom to encourage us to do our best for ourselves, for our military families often forgotten. Let’s Move is the perfect analogy for her. Constantly in movement whether for her family or her American family, meeting, listening, and doing. Growing a garden at the White House – just magnificent. What a lovely person to look up to, to be inspired by, and to emulate.

Her husband. Our President. Not just well-spoken as all Presidents should be, but well-learned. Thoughtful and thought-filled. Caring. Innovative and inspired. Inspirational. Compassionate. Kind. Always looking forward and inward, and never worrying about what people would think of him, simply doing what he thought was best. Always.

His legacy is so much more than words on a paper or chapters in a history book. Others will remember promises broken, as is the case for all presidents once they get in and see how difficult running the government and protecting the individual is, but I will remember his sense of humor, and his easy laugh. His arm gently resting along his wife’s back and hers in the same place on his, a better definition of partnership I don’t think I could find. He sings, he dances, he pases equal pay laws and celebrates equality in marriage, in gender, affordable health care, and in religion. He doesn’t let his own beliefs and his Christianity get in the way or overshadow someone else’s, and there are many represented in this country.

He took the high road in all things, never showing his frustration despite the racism and the lack of civility and professionalism by his colleagues, some of whom should be embarrassed by their behavior. This level of obstruction and pettiness was unprecedented.

He won’t dwell on his last Supreme Court nominee stolen from him. (I will.) He will remain on the high road.

Give him credit, don’t give him credit for what he’s done with our economy and the inclusivity of our civil rights; he doesn’t care as long as he’s helped us.

And he did.

Scandal free, which doesn’t mean not making mistakes. We all make mistakes, but his White House was above board, fair, and diligent for ALL Americans, regardless of their feelings for him and his family.

The day he left was cold and dreary and grey. I don’t know if I’ll ever see his kind again in my lifetime. I can only hope that there is someone to carry his torch because right now, I’m not sure there’s anyone qualified to carry his coat.

I will miss you, President Barack Obama. I will miss you deeply. You were more than my president; you were my ally. You were my champion. You were my leader and my inspiration to do more, to do better, to be better.

Kinder.

Compassionate.

Thoughtful..

Forgiving.

Thank you, President Obama, and goodbye.

Welcome Mr. Obama. I hope to work with you in the future for the better. I will remain alongside you as we all roll our sleeves up and get to work. 

Yes. 

We did. 

We can. 

We will.

President Obama, Thank You

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Graphic from Michael Pop WestBrook on Facebook. 1/17/17

I’m not sure I can express how much I have enjoyed President Obama’s two terms as President. I don’t think I could have been prouder of my country in electing the first African-American President.

His positivity of yes, we can is a mantra we can all get behind and use in our daily lives as we putter along. Our small things add up to big things, especially for the people we are doing the small things for. Our small act of kindness and compassion is equally important to us as the givers, if not more so.

The example Mr. Obama’s given us in temperment, thoughtfulness, intelligence, kindness, compassion, and dedication to his family and by extension, this country is something that we haven’t recognized enough, and something we should all try to emulate.

If our children are a mirror we hold up to ourselves, he and Michelle have every reason to be proud of themselves as parents and as people.

I look forward to continuing to follow his (their) example and help to grow the Democratic party and continue to promote and support equal rights, freedom of speech, religion, and the press. As we move forward, for me, it’s not about resisting, it’s about enduring; standing up and speaking out.

Encouraging.

Helping.

Volunteering.

Being the solution.

I will stand with them as they embark on the next chapter of their lives, and in addition to wishing them the best of luck and my continued prayers for their well-being, I would also like to say – 

Thank you, Mr. Obama.

Thank you.

Thank you, President Obama

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Watching the President’s Farewell Address last night was like turning the page at the end of a chapter. I happily and gratefully and proudly voted for Barack Obama in 2008, knowing that not only was I getting a good and decent man who would be a great President, I was also making history, and I treated it as such.

As late as his election night speech was in 2008, we woke up our then-eleven year old to watch him live. We recorded it if I recall correctly. People would be talking about this for the rest of history. He will stand alongside George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and others who withstand the test of time.

When the Farewell Address began, I took the ear phones and tablets away from my younger kids, and made the television louder. We sat and ignored everyhting else around us for the near hour that he spoke, reminding us of the never ending (hopefully) and the ever constant responsibility we have to continue this American experiment. It is bigger than any one man (or woman).

Thank you.

Yes, We Can. And Yes, We Did.

We did on so many things, and it would be redundant to list them in my less polished way. Please watch the video and read the transcript. Remember what we accomplished together, through discourse and decency.

For the future, beginning in a little more than a week, I say: Fired up. Ready to go.

Full Transcript