Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm Such a Sucker

AP photo by Jim Cole

I'm a flag-waver, but not a sign carrier. I tend to keep to myself politically and regardless of my affiliations, I carry immense respect for whoever occupies the Oval Office.

I met Bob Schieffer once, and I asked him what it was like to stand in the Oval Office with the President of the United States, and he said it was the closest thing to a religious experience he'd had outside of a church. It was a comment that derived from a respect for the office and our nation's history, more so than the person occupying it.

But to my point, regardless of our presidents (or presidents-elect), I'm a sucker for the ones with literary bent. I've shaken Jimmy Carter's hand as he signed a book of poems for me. I've met John McCain as he inscribed his memoir. I admire Bill Clinton's literary acumen and fondness of Southern fiction. Kennedy's love for poetry. But I especially respect Barack Obama for his literary accomplishments--more precisely his reputation as a writer before he became an elected official.

While The Audacity of Hope chronicled his political thoughts garnered his freshman year as a U.S. senator, his first book Dreams From My Father was written well before his documented path to president became a focus. Consider this excerpt from the October 13, 2008 New Yorker:

Not since Theodore Roosevelt has an American politician this close to the pinnacle of power produced such a sustained, highly personal work of literary merit before being definitively swept up by the tides of political ambition....

A Presidential election is not the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize: we elect a politician and we hope, a statesman, not an author. But Obama's first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. "Dreams From My Father" is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama's own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance, and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself.


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