E.J. Dionne and Joy-Ann Reid edited this volume of selected speeches by President Barack Obama. The 27 speeches date from 2002 to 2017, and include some well-known and some more obscure moments. Each speech has an introduction from the editors that puts in context, plus there’s an introductory essay.
For me, picking up this book happened for two reasons. One was because I enjoyed David Litt’s book about working as a speechwriter in the Obama White House. He talked so much about the craft that I wanted to revisit the speeches themselves.
Secondly, I intended to pair this book with the much darker and more difficult book, The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump. You may differ from me, but I found the Obama book uplifting, and the Trump book depressing. So, in order to complete the difficult book, I doled them both out in tandem. It definitely helped.
As I mentioned, some of the Obama speeches included are more well-known. For example, both of his inauguration speeches and his farewell speech are included. But I appreciated reading early speeches from before he was an Illinois Senator. And the speeches he gave after Newtown and Charleston were as spine-tingling and emotional as ever. Especially because the Charleston speech was next up for me after the recent shooting in Christchurch.
If you, like me, remember a day when your President appeared Presidential, then this is a book for you. Obama is a voracious reader, an accomplished scholar, and an eloquent orator. He knows how to reach an audience, even through the written word. I have to admit, I can almost hear his voice in my head as I read. So, yeah, I’m a fangirl.
I think the editors did an effective job of choosing speeches to illustrate the trajectory of Obama’s career and presidency. Dionne and Reid have plenty of writing and media credentials, so their insights offer meaning. They chose some speeches I’d never have heard on TV, like remarks Obama gave at a birthday party for Congressman John Lewis. Others I recall listening to and seeing clips from for days on end, like the remarks after Osama bin Laden was killed. The balance worked for me.
Gathering speeches from Barack Obama into a book allowed me to revisit values that are important to me. I sunk into the memories of the times those speeches evoked. And I might reread a speech now and again, in response to future events. It’s a worthwhile book for my shelves. And my heart.