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The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  16,167 ratings  ·  1,925 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
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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)

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Average rating 4.35  · 
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 ·  16,167 ratings  ·  1,925 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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: buys, memoirs, for-school
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
Woman Reading
2.5 ☆ rounded up
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 administration was as the US Amba
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
Jason Furman
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
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
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.
Anne Frances
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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?
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This took me almost a year to read because *gestures at the world*, but it was really very good. I've always thought Samantha Power was an extremely fascinating person, and this didn't detract from that. I liked that she was critical of certain things the US did, and outspoken about where she disagreed with her administration. The most interesting parts of the book, to me, were definitely her childhood in Ireland and coming to the US, her experience as a journalist in Bosnia during the war, and ...more
During her tenure in the U.S. National Security Council, Samantha Power was involved in the efforts to bring Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladić to justice. In her memoir, The Education of an Idealist, Power recounts an event in that process:

"…we invited the Serbian president’s chief of staff, Miki Rakić, to the White House. David, who had been a theater director in college and always had an eye for the mise-en-scène, reserved the ornate Indian Treaty Room in the EEOB for our meeting. He thou
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
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
Jun 10, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-bios
Mad respect for Samantha Power. Proud to know she continues to represent the US abroad as Director of USAID. I loved reading her backstage experiences of US foreign policy, and her candor was remarkably refreshing. I would absolutely consider her something of an inspiration and a role model to me after reading this.

I left this book experiencing a range of emotions though. In some cases, deep pride in the capacity of the US to do good in the world. But also, naturally, immense shame, betrayal, a
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
Oct 16, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
― “People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change THE world, but they can change many individual worlds.”
― Samantha Power, The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

Samantha Power started her career as a journalist covering the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men by Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995, which led her to write the 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, which asks the question: Why do American leaders repeated
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
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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

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