President Barack Obama, Reader



Last fall in the UK, a cheeky young man lectured me on American politics and criticized Obama.

I was taken aback, but I mentioned a few of Obama’s achievements. And I added, “We’re really going to miss Obama.  I mean we’re really, really going to miss him.”

Count the number of “really”s. It isn’t hyperbole. I mean it.

Obama is the best president of our lifetime. Well, whom else would we pick?

What impressed me most?  The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Americans at least have (had) a shot at visiting doctors. Illness is terrible.  Can you even see a doctor without insurance?  There is always much presenting of cards and Xeroxing them.  And without insurance, the cost of medication is shocking :  one pill can cost $100 or more.  Hence the number of  homeless people tragically off their meds.  How many middle-class, lower-middle-class, and lower-class deaths could be prevented by affordable medication?

What else do I like about Obama?  Well, he is a great reader. The act of reading, the absorption of  ideas, history, and literature, is a spur to the imagination. He is also a pro-education president who wanted to make community colleges free.

My husband and I intended to send him a thank-you card, but alas…we didnt!

We will miss him.

Things are changing drastically already.  Unfortunately, even the media are changing.  NPR is obsequiously going “red” (as in Republican), unless it was just an off night.   I do not listen to NPR for interviews with Republican college professors and whiny businessmen who want to underpay their employees.  Is this what it’s come to?

Oh, well, it’s only four years.  If we cannot support NPR, we’ll give more to Planned Parenthood, the Food Bank, the American Lung Association, NARAL, NAMI, the APL, and the Democrats.

And Obama fans will enjoy a fascinating article in The New York Times, “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books,”in which Michiko Kakutani interviews him about his reading.

Here is an excerpt from Kakutani’s  Critics’ Notebook piece about the interview.  (You can also read the whole transcript.)

“At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.” These two things, he added, “have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.”…

Other novels served as a kind of foil — something to argue with. V. S. Naipaul’s novel “A Bend in the River,” Mr. Obama recalls, “starts with the line ‘The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.’ And I always think about that line and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.”