Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir” as Want to Read:
The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  9,242 ratings  ·  1,192 reviews
Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Power, widely known as a relentless advocate for promoting human rights, has been heralded by President Barack Obama as one of America's "foremost thinkers on foreign policy."

In her memoir, Power offers an urgent response to the question "What can one person do?"—and a call for a clearer eye, a kinder heart, and a more open and civil hand in
ebook, 592 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Dey Street Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Education of an Idealist, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Cynthia I am reading "Questions" and I can hardly put it down. (I'm listening on audible and the author is the narrator which gives it makes it so personal...…moreI am reading "Questions" and I can hardly put it down. (I'm listening on audible and the author is the narrator which gives it makes it so personal...) I wondered the same thing, but once I started I said I want to read everything she's written. I'll look forward to your thoughts along the way! (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,242 ratings  ·  1,192 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
3.5 stars

I would have liked The Education of an Idealist much more if it had been shorter, although I’m still glad I listened to it. Samantha Power is probably best known as an ambassador to the UN under the Obama administration. But the parts of her memoir I liked the best were her childhood in Ireland and family background, her move to the US and her earlier work covering the war in Bosnia. Her discussion of her more recent years felt overly long and a bit too self-aggrandizing. But, still, he
Power was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for her book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”. Power was a journalist covering the Balkan War when she started writing the book. She stated it took her ten years to write the book. She did not finish it until she had graduated from law school. She then had many rejection slips from publishers.

The book is well written and researched. Power tells about being born in Ireland and immigrating as a child to the United States. She tells ab
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
What a spellbinding memoir. At first I found the title a bit grandiose, but the book is such a page-turner that I quickly forgot that minor quibble. I discovered Samantha Power when I read her biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello and have followed her career with interest ever since. I remember my surprise when this person I viewed as a journalist rather than a politician was named Ambassador of the UN and this memoir provides a fascinating glimpse into the development of her career and the evolu ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Extremely well written and has a great POV on the way activism and government and getting actual changes made can intersect as well as work against each other. But toward the end, it started to feel a bit bogged down
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, for-school, buys
Oh man. I really appreciated this. It reminds me of when I read Madeleine Albright’s memoir in high school and provokes the same emotions - inspiration and a desire to go out there and do something. It makes me wonder if I should switch my major to International Relations (which I won’t do because I’m already having a crisis). It’s really nice to see an insider perspective on US foreign policy under Obama, and to read work from someone who struggled with being outspoken vs. being the perfect fac ...more
The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power was an engaging and highly reflective book. I vividly remember Samantha Power as a human rights advocate and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Barack Obama's second term with her impassioned speeches and pleas to the United Nations about atrocities that were taking place throughout the world, including the gassing of children in Syria. I also remember Ambassador Power at Secretary of State John Kerry's side when he was attempting ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Samantha Power is an exceptional writer, but the book has serious blindspots. This is written as a personal memoir, taking you from Ms Power's childhood in Ireland, her journey to America, her involvement as a war reporter in Bosnia, and her eventual transformation into an advocate for "liberal interventionism" - that is, a posture that advocates that the United States and its Western allies must intervene militarily to stop massacres of civilians where they occur. In addition, she writes about ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This was worthwhile, but not exceptional. I rarely say this, because I like long slogs and detailed memoirs and historical texts. But this could have been quite a bit shorter. Power's writing is strongest when describing her childhood and personal evolution as a human rights advocate. Too much time was spent covering her time with the Obama administration, perhaps because it's most recent. There's also quite a bit of preaching about American exceptionalism. Is this just because she and Obama spe ...more
This was by far the most personal and most interesting- and consistently interesting, never any dull moments for me- political memoir I’ve ever read!

I also greatly enjoyed getting to live vicariously through Power, as someone deeply interested in a foreign policy career before severe illness derailed my plans, and as someone who has grown evermore interested in journalism, especially the amazing work of foreign correspondents. I will never have those careers but damn, did I ever enjoy reading al
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change THE world, but they can change many individual worlds.”

Samantha Power's Memoir "The Education of an Idealist" reads as an honest, upfront, and rather refreshing look at an Irish immigrant's upbringing against the backdrop of quite a politically led life in American politics. There's a great sense of humility as Power brings up her own idealisms whilst consistently upfront about her own shortcomings. That weighted judgement against hers
Woman Reading (Stay safe, Happy Thanksgiving!)
almost 3 ☆ and rounded up to 3 very faint ☆
People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change THE world, but they can change many individual worlds.

Samantha Power is a woman with an extraordinary career. As described in the GR summary, her memoir includes her roots in her native Ireland, her transition to becoming an American, her stint as a war correspondent, and then her political career as a member of Barack Obama's staff. Her final position in President Obama's admini
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. The first 1/3 was really interesting as we learn backstory and what helped shape Samantha Power’s beliefs around human rights and dedication to the cause.

Once she starts working in the Obama Administration, the chapters get really dry and sort of operate as stand alones. Each chapter gets into a major foreign policy challenge - Ebola crisis, Syrian war, N. Korea missile testing, etc. There’s not a lot of structure and it jumps around from analysis to depicting e
This is a tough one. I admire quite a bit about Samantha Power, but maybe this memoir is not one of the reasons. I'd hoped it would be more about the things she did as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (A partial list includes: LGBTQ, women's & human rights; religious freedom; refugee rights and issues; human trafficking; democracy, including shedding the light on activists and journalists jailed by dictators the world over & getting more than a few out of jail by spotlighting them; genocide ...more
Jason Furman
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
I loved just about every minute of listening to this audiobook, narrated by Samantha Power herself. She is a great writer with a great story to tell. The memoir is a chronological telling of her life from leaving Ireland as a child to just about every issue she worked on at the United Nations, but somehow it works as a unified narrative arc with characters and themes that reappear, well chosen details to illustrate bigger points, and a process that includes both change (“education”) but also a l ...more
Connie Schultz
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It was my good luck to interview Samantha Power on stage last fall for an event hosted by Cuyahoga County Public Library. Of course, this required me to read her memoir in advance. I have been recommending this book to young women especially, as she is so honest about the trajectory of her life, and her career in ways that can inspire.
Steven Z.
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Toward the end of my teaching career I had the opportunity of meeting Samantha Power and she proved to be a warm individual with a sardonic sense of humor. The occasion was a Model Congress trip to Washington with over thirty teenagers who were role playing our legislative branch of government with over 1000 other students from all over the United States. During our Saturday afternoon break we walked over to the White House and met with Ambassador Power in her office where she proceeded to spend ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Totally inspiring, a magnificent book about a person determined to make a difference and struggling to be the change she wants to see in the world. Power is frank in describing the nuance of international relations and the failings of U.S. policy, but where the book really shines is in her warm and endearingly personal revelations about her family and anxiety and the mentors she met along the way.
Sep 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
this is a narcissistic tale of half truths written by someone who has her future interests in mind.
Is Samantha going to be a Democratic candidate in 2024?
James Alan
Sep 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ahistorical rag, suffused with banal American exceptionalism, failing utterly to reinvent the failings of our 'left' wing's interventionist movement. No one who supported the Libyan intervention(as Power did) should be waxing poetically about making the same mistakes.

Samantha Power would thoughtlessly send our children to die in poorly thought-out conflicts, endlessly creating power vacuums. This book paired with the policies she supported makes me question if she is sincerely devoted to her mo
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it
There’s no denying Samantha Power’s career-long commitment to international human rights, often manifested as an implacable defense of US diplomatic and military intervention in places where the potential for genocide exists. As a nascent reporter fresh out of Yale, Power traveled to war-torn Bosnia and reported extensively on the Bosnian-Serb Army’s ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats throughout the region. The experience inspired her Pulitzer Prize-winning first book, “A Problem from Hell: ...more
Robert Sheard
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samantha Power's early career–from serving as a freelance journalist/war correspondent covering the genocide in Bosnia to her years working in the Obama administration and as the US Ambassador to the UN–was remarkable. She saw first hand such a dramatic range of world events that it's hard to contextualize it all. And had I ever worked in government, I would have wanted to stand beside her as she campaigned for change.

As a book, however, I found her memoir frustrating for a couple of reasons. F
Anne Frances
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm not a political junkie and did not know much about Samantha Power when I began reading her memoir, but it was quickly apparent that she's quite the (ahem) powerhouse. Born in Ireland to two physicians, Power moved with her mother and brother to the US as a child and, after an undergraduate degree at Yale, became a (very young-looking!) freelance reporter during the Yugoslav war, followed by becoming a respected academic and humanitarian activist. Her memoir is an apologia/self-justification ...more
Chris Burd
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
Definitely the best book that I've read this year - and well-deserving of the 5-star rating. In addition to being an incredibly well-written memoir of a fascinating life, Ms. Power puts context around some of the most difficult foreign policy decisions made during the past decade.

Most of us understand that decisions made at the highest levels of our government are not as simple as they seem, but it's difficult to truly imagine the complexity. Most of all, it's difficult to remember that these d
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exactly the memoir every 26-year-old Political Science major and public service devotee should hope to stumble upon during a quarter-life crisis. Power is a human rights and foreign policy powerhouse (ha); it was so refreshing to read about a woman who forms strong opinions based on lived experience (as opposed to pretentious bullshitting) and gives voice to them.

On a less hopeful note, government actors seem to operate within an insular, watered-down machine. Change is much, much easier said t
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: listened-to
4.5. Loved this on audio but not sure I could have managed the length on paper. Like Becoming, there’s a transition point where the memoir veers into minutiae of the Obama administration, but I think this one does a better job of (eventually) zooming back out. Greatly appreciated the rawness, especially in the depiction of Samantha’s life as a single professional woman and then as a high-powered mother.
People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change the world, but they can change many individual worlds (p. 552)

There are at least two ways of reading Samantha Power's memoir, as a bird's eye view of the Obama administration or as an inspirational exemplar of someone who stood up and did the hard stuff, when faced with difficult situations. I approached Education of an Idealist from the latter perspective, which made this an especially appropriate read during these anti-immigrant and c
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I started this book with high expectations. I had heard her speak in Harvard Square, and was eager to read it so I could learn about her 'education'. But I was disappointed.

She grew up in a modest family. She went to Yale. She traveled to Bosnia and lived there for two years. She went to Harvard Law School, and even took a year off.

She told us nothing about how she managed to pay for any of this. And to me, that was important.

I was a college scholarship and work-study student, for both my unde
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While most of us are content in being the armchair intellectuals in the current political environment..this really is an incredible account of stories which show what its like to work towards a worthy cause.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Non Fiction Book ...: July/August 2020 - The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power 28 67 Sep 01, 2020 12:13PM  
Who is teacher? 1 1 Jul 25, 2020 11:02PM  
Private polytechnic college in kanpur 1 1 Jul 24, 2020 01:02AM  
Racing to Equity Consulting Group 1 2 Jun 09, 2020 02:22AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add book cover 2 14 Feb 07, 2020 01:58PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For
  • Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
  • Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth
  • She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement
  • Why We're Polarized
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
  • Know My Name
  • How to Be an Antiracist
  • Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st-Century Memoir
  • The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House
  • Un-Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again
  • My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education
  • Make It Scream, Make It Burn
  • A Particular Kind of Black Man
  • The Yellow House
  • I Will Never See the World Again
See similar books…
Samantha Power is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, writer, and academic. She is affiliated with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School, holding the position of Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, she moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. From 1

Articles featuring this book

When you work at Goodreads, it's pretty tough to keep that Want to Read shelf under control. (And let's be honest, most of us don't even...
162 likes · 44 comments
“We decide, on issues large and small, whether we will be bystanders or upstanders.” 11 likes
“People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change THE world, but they can change many individual worlds.” 8 likes
More quotes…