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The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  2,610 ratings  ·  344 reviews


“Her highly personal and reflective memoir . . . is a must-read for anyone who cares about our role
Hardcover, 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…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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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
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
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 ...more
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...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
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Steven Z.
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Sheard
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been following her career since I saw her fiery speech at the UN calling out Russia's support of the Assad regime, and am a big fan of hers. In this memoir she talks about her childhood in Ireland, and how she was forced to leave it when her parents' marriage fell apart. Her inspiration for becoming a war correspondent, then writing her first book, becoming an academic, and ultimately reaching the highest levels of the US government. She goes in-depth about her inner conflict of being an ...more
Chris Burd
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Lena Nechet
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humanism
I admire the author, Samantha Power. The audio book made me cry and laugh, and helped me with an important life transition.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This excellent memoir by Samantha Power offers reflection on major conundrums in American foreign policy, contained within personal reflection on a remarkably interesting life. Power’s passion was human rights; her anguish was for refugees, victims of war, and the powerless.

Power came to the US from Ireland as a 9-year old. Her first-hand acquaintance with genocide was as a free-lance journalist in Bosnia during the terrible siege of Sarajevo and the massacre at Srebrenica. After she went to law
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; ...more
Connie Schultz
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Zack Rearick
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. Good as far as political memoirs go. But if you're going to read Power -- and she is a great writer -- I would read A Problem From Hell. The most interesting parts of this book, I thought, were her reflections on her younger years and her time as a journalist and her (somewhat unlikely) transition into politics and government. I also loved her insight into lessons she took away as an outsider: never assume there is another meeting, make action-forcing events your friend, etc. Valuable and ...more
James Alan
Sep 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the past few weeks I have been telling everyone around me every little detail of Samantha Power's life. She took a break to pump in the middle of peace talks with Burma! Her water broke while she was telling Obama off about his wishy-washiness about the Armenian genocide! She basically stopped ebola in its path! I am so in awe and kind of overwhelmed by this person. She seems to have accomplished every single thing she set her mind to, and the things she set her mind to were almost entirely ...more
From Ireland to working in the White House alongside President Barak Obama, Samantha Power reveals her climb towards political success, her efforts in protecting human rights, the war on terror, to finding true love and herself. For those who enjoyed anything about RBG or Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Laura Wu
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most important books I have read this year - galvanizing, inspirational and humbling, Sam Power’s book offers a perfect chord of diplomacy, feminism and “dirt” that is so hard to integrate in a memoir. I will be forcing friends to read this!
Mark Schlatter
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shreve
I heard about this book a few months ago (before its release) and - although I hadn't heard of Power before - I was fascinated by the idea of a former journalist and human rights advocate becoming the US Ambassador to the United Nations. So, in preparation for this book, I read her Pulitzer Prize winning volume "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide.

And it just a little ruined *this* book for me....

Here's the thing. This book is a pretty straightforward biography, starting with
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ryan Moore
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars is not enough for this book. I’ve been a Samantha Power fan since reading “A problem from hell” about genocide and America’s response to it. Reading her memoir which deftly combines her personal story with plenty foreign policy and stories of her work. If you’re interested in foreign policy or just a good memoir this is an excellent read.
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IBIS Read and Review: The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power 1 4 Nov 29, 2019 12:01PM  

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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
“We decide, on issues large and small, whether we will be bystanders or upstanders.” 1 likes
“Early on in my tenure, I was given a cartoon that circulated widely at the UN. The cartoon showed dozens of people listening to a speech. In the first panel, the speaker asks, “Who wants change?” and all audience members enthusiastically raise their hands. In the second panel, the speaker refines his question, asking, “Who wants to change?” This time, each audience member looks toward the ground, demurring.” 1 likes
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