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27 pages, Audible Audio
First published November 17, 2020
“I don’t know. What I can say for certain is that I’m not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America—not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind. For I’m convinced that the pandemic we’re currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an interconnected world, one in which peoples and cultures can’t help but collide. In that world—of global supply chains, instantaneous capital transfers, social media, transnational terrorist networks, climate change, mass migration, and ever-increasing complexity—we will learn to live together, cooperate with one another, and recognize the dignity of others, or we will perish. And so the world watches America—the only great power in history made up of people from every corner of the planet, comprising every race and faith and cultural practice—to see if our experiment in democracy can work. To see if we can do what no other nation has ever done. To see if we can actually live up to the meaning of our creed.”
“More than anyone, this book is for the Young people-an invitation to once again remake the world, and to bring about, through hard work, determination, and a big dose of imagination, an America that finally aligns with all that is best in us.”
“I started asking questions about how it was I’d come to live in a place where few people looked like me. A lot of the questions center’s on race: Why did Blacks play professional basketball but not coach it? What did that girl from school mean when she said she didn’t think of me as Black? Why were all the Black men in action movies switchblade- wielding lunatics except for maybe the one decent black guy- the sidekick, of course- who always seemed to end up getting killed?
But I wasn’t concerned only with race. It was class as well. I became attuned to the not-so-subtle hierarchies amount my prep school classmates, mostly having to do with how much money their parents had. And then there was the unsettling fact that, despite whatever my mother might claim, the bullies, cheats, and self-promoters seemed to be doing quite well, while those she considered good and decent people seemed to get screwed an awful lot. I understood that unless I could stitch my life together and situate myself along some firm axis, I might end up in some basic way of living my life alone.”
“I might urge the young man I was to set the books aside for a minute, open the windows, and let in some fresh air (my smoking habit was then in full bloom). I’d tell him to relax, go meet some people and enjoy the pleasures that life reserves for those in their twenties. I was like a young Walter Mitty; a Don Quixote with no Sancho Panza.”
“I became convinced that we would win Iowa. Not necessarily because I was the most polished candidate, but because we had the right message for the time and had attracted young people with prodigious talent to throw themselves behind the cause.”
“You go into some of the small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for twenty-five years, and nothing’s replaced them. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
"Morning- giving over strategy and key points
Early Afternoon- Some light campaigning.
Four o’clock- Quick workout to shed excess adrenaline
Ninety minutes before heading to the venue- Shave and take a long hot shower, before putting on the new white shirt, tie (blue or red), and freshly pressed blue suit.
Dinner- Comfort food: steak cooked medium-well, roasted or mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli
Half an hour ahead of the debate- Glancing at my notes and listening to music delivered through earbuds or a small portable speaker. It was rap that got my head in the right place, two songs, especially: Jay-Z’s “My first song” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Both were about defying the odds and putting it all on the line.”
“Along with Lincoln, King, and Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi had profoundly influenced my thinking. As a young man, I’d studied his writings and found him giving voice to some of my deepest instincts. His notions of satyagraha, or devotion to truth, and the power of nonviolent resistance to stir the conscience, his insistence on our common humanity and the essential oneness of all religion; and his belief in every society’s obligation, through his political, economic, and social arrangements, to recognize the equal worth and dignity of all people- each of these deals resonated with me. Gandhi’s actions had stirred me even more than his words; he’d put his beliefs to the test by risking his life, going to prison, and throwing himself fully into the struggles of his people. He hadn’t just helped overcome an empire and liberate much of the subcontinent, it had set off a moral charge that pushed around the globe. it became a beacon for tether dispossessed, marginalized groups- including Black Americans in the Jim Crow south-intent on securing their freedom.”
“Was that unity of effort, that sense of common purpose, possible only when the goal involved killing a terrorist? The question nagged at me. For all the pride and satisfaction I took in the success of our mission in Abbottabad, the truth was that I hadn’t felt the same exuberance I had on the night the healthcare bill passed. I found myself imagining what America might look like if we could rally the country so that our government brought the same level of expertise and determination to educating our children or housing the homeless as it had to getting Bin Laden; if we could apply the same persistence and resources to reducing poverty or curbing greenhouse gases or making sure every family had access to decent daycare. I knew that even my own staff would dismiss these notions as utopian. And the fact that this was the case, the fact that we could no longer imagine uniting the country around anything other than thwarting attacks and defeating external enemies, I took as a measure of how far my presidency still fell short of what I wanted it to be-and how much work I had left to do.”
“There was a final stress reliever that I didn’t like to talk about, one that had been a chronic source of tension throughout my marriage. I was still smoking five (or six, or seven) cigarettes a day.
At Michelle’s insistence, I had quit several times over the years, and I never smoked in front of the kids.
Initially, the pool game had also given me an excuse to duck out and have a cigarette on the third- floor landing. I had made the decision to quit smoking a few weeks earlier, when Maria, smelling a cigarette on my breath, frowned and asked if I’d been smoking. Faced with the prospect of lying to my daughter or setting a bad example, I called the White House Doctor and asked him to send me a box of nicotine gum. It did the trick for I haven’t had a cigarette since”
“The dark spirits that had long been lurking the edges of the modern Republican Party- xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, and antipathy toward Black and Brown folks- were finding their way to Center stage.”
“A) Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil President at that time)- He also reportedly had the scruples of a Tammany Hall boss, and rumors swirled about government cronyism, sweetheart deals, and kickbacks that ran into the billions.
B) Rahul Gandhi (A Congress leader from India)- There was a nervous, unformed quality about him, as if he were a student who’d done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject.
C) Vladimir Putin (Russian Prime Minister at that time, now he is again the President)- Vladimir Putin is the leader of what resembled a criminal syndicate as much as it did a traditional government- a syndicate that had its tentacles wrapped around every aspect of the country’s economy. (We can see him mentioning about Russia and its politics using the controversial words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) The lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the State.”
“My interest in books probably explains why I not only survived high school but arrived at Occidental College in 1979”
“Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiencies.”
“There is not a Black America and a White America and a Latino America and an Asian America. There’s the United States of America.”