Obama: Are You What You Read?

Man, I'm up early today and except for getting the trash out before nine, I'm not really sure what else I can do while waiting on a delivery to come.  One thing I usually do in these downtime-moments is pick up a book and read around in it just turning the pages. I usually find some good stuff.

I wonder how much of what you read is incorporated into your thinking being. If it's a lot, then we should be studying what our leaders are reading.  Can we know what books have jazzed Obama, for example? Oh, yes we can.

This article though sheds some light on what reading Obama has been into. There are some interesting books here and there that he's picked up on. His interest in Nietzsche surprised me. Who could read all of that amazing work and then still go into politics as is? I would love to hear his reconciliation of those two political systems.

The saddest part of the article is the journalist's misunderstanding of Saul Alinsky. Alinsky is not Neitzchean, although it would be easy to make that mistake. Alinsky is one of the earliest writers in what we now call "The New Politics" - applying insights from psychoanalysis (Alinsky drew on Freud primarily) in order to construct a vision of political resistance, and a rhetoric of how to be effective in political activism.  This is totally missed by the author of the piece.  What is also missed is that Obama has read some insightful theory on the human mind and how to get people to hear arguments that they might think are off the table to begin with. Said another way, Alinsky's politics help people recognize political problems that they just don't have the vocabulary to believe could ever be problems.

The other thing is the comparison of Obama's Dreams of my Father to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. I laughed out loud when I read this. I guess all black men write the same sort of book don't they, Salon? I find it incredulous that Obama could write anything that could compare to Ellison's masterpiece of 1950s black society. Ellison's grocery list is probably more astute than Obama's greatest page of prose. Nevertheless, I still find this comparison is making me want to read Obama's book. . .

Would it be a good classroom exercise to find a speech by a candidate, and a reading list of what that candidate finds significant book-wise, and then have students make connections between the two? If anything, it would spark a nice classroom anxiety about tracking intent, argument structure, and the quality of proof.