Reader-in-chief

In a recent essay, NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani discusses President Barack Obama as a reader and writer. As a bookish type myself, I can’t help but be pleased with the ascension of a politician who reads widely and writes extremely well: personally, I’d much rather talk books over a beer with Barack than suffer through small talk about sports and brush-clearing with a faux-everyman like W. I feel better about where Obama’s coming from, knowing that he’s big into Emerson and that he considers The Golden Notebook one of his favorite books. He’s even up to speed on and sympathetic toward the ideas of food writer and activist Michael Pollan.

When watching last night’s Neighborhood Ball, I experienced a similar moment of recognition when Obama made a point of telling the non-VIP crowd that he and Michelle fully intend to be involved in making Washington D.C. a better place—and not just political Washington, but the city as a whole. He traced this desire to his background as a community organizer—and I thought, my god, our president is actually a man who not only sincerely cares about poor people and urban issues, but—just like my friends who work in legal aid and as union organizers—has consistently evidenced a genuine and passionate commitment to serving and empowering those people whose needs and desires are largely ignored by the political process. President Obama, reader and community organizer: this is a leader I can get behind.

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Recent Publications

Review of J.M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature, edited by Anton Leist and Peter Singer. The Quarterly Conversation, September 2010.

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