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.

Election Reflection – Civics 101 or Dear Mr. President

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Civics 101 is not something I would have expected to write for a President of the United States, but here we are – through the looking glass.
First, not receiving calls directly about citizens against DAPL doesn’t mean that everyone in the country is for it. In fact, I would hazard to guess that the President’s aides are not giving him the full picture of what’s going on in this country. More people are against it than are for it. In fact, this is the epitome of an example to show the President why we have conflict of interest laws. He should not be pushing forward on a pipeline that he will directly benefit from once it’s in place.

Second, you won’t receive phone calls if the phones at the White House switchboard are disconnected or turned off as has been reported.

Third, President Obama doesn’t like you. He’s just too polite to say it. You called him horrible things, said horrible things about his parents and his birth. He may forgive you, but I can guarantee he will not forget.

Fourth, and more importantly, there are Three Branches of Government. Three. There is a reason for that. It’s called checks and balances. They are co-equal. The Legislative Branch, ie. Congress, makes the laws. Watch Schoolhouse Rock’s How a Bill Becomes a Law. It will break it down into bite sized pieces for you. It can’t be more than three minutes. And they sing.

The Executive Branch signs the laws. He or she makes suggestions, and sets the agenda, the priorities for the country. The whole country. Not just the rich, white folks.

The Judicial Branch keeps it all in order. They determine what is and isn’t Constitutional. Yes, they can overrule the President. In fact, that’s kind of their job.

You’re not the boss anymore.

We the people are.

I’d recommend brushing up on this handy document in its original or a transcript.

Or the interactive version.

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.

Somewhere I Read

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This is part of Dr. King’s last speech, given in Memphis, Tennessee the night before his assassination.

They are words to remember; today, tomorrow, Friday, and for the next four years:

First excerpt:

All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

Second excerpt, beginning at 1:20:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

On the 5th Day of Christmas, My True Love gave to Me:

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​…gumption.

This is disguised as a book rec. Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman. It is funny, historical and biographical, autobiographical, serious and not, and there is quite a bit of language, both of the English and the salty variety.

Comedian and all around great guy, Nick Offerman profiles many gentlemen and gentle-ladies who have that one thing that lets them hit their goals and more importantly to keep getting back up when the lemonade stand knocks them down. Making lemonade is fine, but adding a shot of whiskey is better. I think Mr. Offerman would agree with me.

Oxford Dictionaries defines gumption as:

shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness

A few synonyms are: ingenuity, imagination, acumen, practicality, spirit, pluck, courage, moxie, spunk, and my favorite: wherewithal.

In total, in addition to an epilogue and a bonus chapter, there are twenty-one profiles, some you’d expect: Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Benjamin Franklin as well as founding father, George Washington, and some you might not expect: Conan O’Brien, Carol Burnett, and Willie Nelson.

Those last three speak directly to my prejudices. Despite loving many celebrities, finding inspiration in them, and respecting them, I am still under the impression that they and celebrities of all types are expected to be more because they do more. Or rather, they do more publicly, and often hide their hardships, not always because of shame, but because of being so far ih the past as to not talk about anymore. They appear to just do it, which I suppose defines those with gumption better than the Oxford Dictionary.

Just get it done.

When you’re a kid that phrase usually means clean your room, finish the dishes, put away the groceries, but responsibilities foster more responsibility.

Some shrug off the fall; others cry, but they all get up and make a new plan.

That, my friends, is gumption.

Read the book, learn something new, meet someone new in its pages, and find out where your gumption is and how to find it; to reach it.

On the First Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to Me:

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…a history lesson. 🙂

It was only after a discussion with my husband and my own new found education now that I am more familiar with the Catholic liturgical calendar that I realized how most of us think of Christmas as ending with Christmas when in reality it begins with it.

The Christmas season begins with the birth of Christ and continues through the Epiphany.

Just like the Easter season begins with the end of Lent and continues through Pentecost, there is more than meets the eye.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to look a little deeper and see why we observe or celebrate the things we do. Children aren’t the only ones who ask the whys and wherefores.

We all have an insatiable curiosity and sometimes we have to feed it for ourselves.

I’ve included two links to get you started.

Happy Christmas.

Looking forward to a joyous Christmastide.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Christmastide