Happy Obama Day to you all!
Sorry had to edit the header! I was in mid-type an accidentally sent.
Here are some reading lists the previous U.S. President Barack Obama had that you may be interested in taking a look at when you have time.
This is about policy and a "get to know the candidate" book that those in public office write to make themselves more familiar to voters as the candidate vies for national office. U.S. Senator Obama wrote/published this back in 2006, so there are a lot of references to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush II administration, and nothing about the growing problem of housing/Wall Street that blew up in the recession of late 2007-2009.
I will state upfront I voted for him in both presidential elections, and knew enough about his policy stances to feel confident in my votes. However, I found the stances much more nuanced in this book then an any article or interview about him. For the most part I liked what he had to say, even if I disagreed with him on some of the finer points or came from a different perspective. Some of his thinking comes from his time as a community organizer, some from his time as a lawyer and professor, and some from his time in the Illinois state legislature. The little of what we see from his time in the US Senate is about his trips to Russia and Ukraine or to the Middle East and how those experiences influences and sometimes changes his way of thinking about a policy matter. Most of the trips mentioned are of his going back to Illinois for town halls, campaign events, or speaking engagements.
Mixed in the policy talk are personal anecdotes, conversations with citizens, conversations with senior political office holders, and biographical material. This is a pretty personal toned book from such a policy wonk.
Be ye forewarned: This man really likes to take walks through history to provide context at the beginning of a few chapters. The chapter on the Constitution starts out with a history lesson that begins with the Founding Fathers and moves along slowly. So much law professor lecturing going on. Most of the history walks start with Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson.
I found the chapter on faith/religion the big obstacle in my enjoyment and learning from this book. He basically sold out irreligious and people of faith other than evangelical or mainline Protestants and kissed the asses of the conservative Christian right. He wants Democrats to take pages from the GOP and use Christian language and imagery to help explain party platforms, ideas, and policies. He also uses his Christian faith to defend his stand on opposing same-sex marriage. The one non-Christian mentioned in this chapter is a Jewish GOP Senator who is in charge of planning the Senate's voluntary weekly Bible study meeting...yeah. Nothing about how the Muslims are treated, nothing about the rise of anti-Semitism, nothing but the hate crimes against Shikhs (who are targeted because they are mistaken often for Muslims), nothing about the UU church- nothing about religion other than Christianity. No thank you; I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.
Overall, I found a lot of policy topics for which I can think about from either a different perspective or think about more in depth. I just wished I skipped the chapter on faith.
"This element of convenience also helps explain why, even among the most scrupulous reporters, objectivity often means publishing the talking points of different sides of a debate without any perspective on which side might actually be right." (pg.125)
"But at least some of the decline incivility arises from the fact that, from the press's perspective, civility is boring." (pg. 125)
"The absences of even rough agreement on the facts puts every opinion on equal footing and therefore eliminates the basis for thoughtful compromise." (pg. 127)
"Everybody likes the idea of bipartisanship...Genuine bipartisanship, though, assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal. This in turn assumes that the majority will be constrained to negotiate in good faith. If these conditions do not hold, the majority party can begin every negotiation by asking for 100 percent of what it wants, go on to concede 10 percent, and then accuse any member of the minority party who fails to support this "compromise" of being "obstructionist." For the minority party in such circumstances, "bipartisanship" comes to mean getting chronically steamrolled..." (pg. 131)
"If we're serious about building twenty-first century school system, we're going to have to take the teaching profession seriously. This means changing the certification process to allow a chemistry major who wants to teach to avoid expensive additional course work; pairing up new recruits with master teachers to break their isolation; and giving proven teachers more control over what goes on in their classroom. It also means paying teachers what they're worth...There's just one catch. In exchange for more money, teachers need to become more accountable for their performance - and school districts need to have greater ability to get rid of ineffective teachers." (pg. 162)
"A nation that can't control its energy sources can't control its future. Ukraine may have little choice in the matter, but the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth surely does." (pg. 171)
"...black attitudes regarding the sources of chronic poverty are far more conservative than black politics would care to admit. What you won't hear, though, are blacks using such terms as "predator" in describing a young gang member, or "underclass" in describing mothers on welfare - language that divides the world between those who are worthy of our concern and those who are not. For black Americans, such separation from the poor is never an option, and not just because the color of our skin...They know what drove that homeless man to drink because he is their uncle. That hardened criminal - they remember when he was a little boy, so full of life and capable of love, for he is their cousin. In other words, African Americans understand that culture matters but that culture is shaped by circumstance." (pg. 254-255)
"Just as important, the painstaking process of building coalitions forces us to listen to other points of view and therefore look before we leap...by engaging our allies, we give them joint ownership over the difficult, methodical, vital, and necessarily collaborative work of limiting the terrorists' capacity to inflict harm." (pg. 310-311)
"For half of the world's population, roughly three billion people around the world living on less than two dollars a day, an election is at best a means, not an end; a starting point, not deliverance." (pg. 317)
"No country has a bigger stake than we do in strengthening international institutions - which is why we pushed for their creation in the first place, and why we need to take the lead in improving them." (pg. 320)
"Finally, for those who chafe at the prospect of working with our allies to solve the pressing global challenges we face, let me suggest at least one area where we can act unilaterally and improve our standing in the world - by perfecting our own democracy and leading by example...This unwillingness to make hard choices and live up to our own ideals doesn't just undermine U.S. credibility in the eyes of the world. It undermines the U.S. government's credibility with the American people." (pg. 321)
I'm not one for taking notes while reading, but this book is compelling me to read with a pencil in my hand so that I can line some of the important items (it is my own copy - so no worries about destroying public library property :D). Here is what I underlined in the first 100 pages:
"...underscore one of the differences between ideology and values: Values are faithfully applied to the facts before us, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question." (pg. 59)
"When, for fear of appearing censorious, progressive political leaders can't even acknowledge the problem, those parents start listening to those leaders who will - leaders who may be less sensitive to constitutional constraints." (pg. 61)
"Sometimes we need both cultural transformation and government action - a change in values and a change in policy - to promote the kind of society we want." (pg. 63)
"Still, I wondered if, in our reliance on the courts to vindicate not only our rights but also our values, progressives had lost too much faith in democracy." (pg. 83)
"...as I suspect was true for those teaching Scripture, I found that my students often felt they knew the Constitution without having really read it. They were accustomed to plucking out phrases that they'd heard and using them to bolster their immediate arguments, or ignoring passages that seemed to contradict their views." (pg. 85)
"...may be the vision of the Founders that inspires us, but it was their realism, their practicality and flexibility and curiosity, that ensured the Union's survival." (pg. 94)
"...that deliberation and the constitutional order may sometimes be the luxury of the powerful, and that it has sometimes been the cranks, the zealots, the prophets, the agitators, and the unreasonable - in other words, the absolutists - that have fought for a new order." (pg. 97)
"He [Senator Byrd] told me I would do well in the Senate but that I shouldn't be in too much of a rush - so many senators today became fixated on the White House, not understanding that in the constitutional design it was the Senate that was supreme, the heart and soul of the Republic." (pg. 100)
Chapter 3's focus was on the Constitution and was like reading a Constitutional Law 101.