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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Barack Obama, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 152
1. What's New with Nikki Grimes


We featured Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes in our February 2008 issue. The book, which won the Coretta Scott King Award, shared the poetry and voices of eighteen different students.

Since her spotlight at readergirlz, Nikki has released a multitude of books, including:
A picture book biography: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
More novels-in-verse: A Girl Named Mister, Planet Middle School, Words With Wings
A quartet of chapter books: Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, Rich, Almost Zero, Halfway to Perfect
Forays into visual art: 6 exhibits, several sales, one 2nd Place Ribbon
A limited edition title: Journey: Poems for the Pulpit
...and she tells us there's more on the way! Congrats, Nikki!

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2. Enter Out of Print’s ‘Put a Poe On It’ Contest

poeOut of Print, a book-themed clothing merchant, is hosting the “Put a Poe On It” design contest.

To enter, just download this PNG file of Edgar Allan Poe’s head, create a piece of art with the image and submit to the ”Put a Poe On It” Tumblr page.

One grand prize winner will receive the “Poe Prize Pack.” The runner-up will be awarded a $50 Out of Print gift card.

continued…

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3. Why Does Barack Obama Hate Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles”?

The We The People petition website is run by the White House and bills itself as a site that gives “all Americans a way to engage their government on the issues that matter to them.” Any citizen of our great nation can create a petition and round up signatures from other constituents. The petitions that achieve over 100,000 signatures will generate a response from the Obama administration. Democracy in action…or so it would seem.

Last week, a courageous American started a petition that asked President Barack Obama to “re-enact the scene from The Incredibles where Frozone is looking for his supersuit.” The petition was supported by Incredibles director Brad Bird, who retweeted the request on his Twitter account. It made a reasonable request of the leader of the free world:

However, it turns out that Obama (or his minions who run the We the People site) do not appreciate The Incredibles as much as the rest of America’s freedom-loving, tax-paying, God-fearing citizens do. In an act worthy of the Turkish government, the petition asking Obama to re-enact a simple one-minute scene from a beloved animated film and which had received over 5,000 signatures in two days, was abruptly halted by the the U.S. government. Perhaps, then, Frozone was an appropriate character for Obama to re-enact because he clearly has no qualms about freezing the needs and desires of American citizens.

The harm that has been caused to the fundamental integrity of our democratic process is unquestionable, but we should never forget that, as Americans, we have the right to demand of our leaders to perform scenes from classic animated movies. In fact, a new petition requesting that Obama dress up as Frozone has already been launched on Change.org. We will make it happen one way or another:

0 Comments on Why Does Barack Obama Hate Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles”? as of 6/19/2013 1:43:00 PM
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4. Why Jeffrey Katzenberg is Considered Among the Most Powerful People in American Politics

The new print issue of Mother Jones (May/June 2013) has a fascinating piece about DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and his central role during the 2012 U. S. Presidential elections. The article will be an eye-opening read for anyone who considers the animation business to be detached from American politics. It makes clear that Katzenberg’s involvement in Obama’s Presidency has opened doors for him at the highest levels of both U. S. and Chinese government, and given him the ability to more quickly expand into the Chinese film market, whose box office returns are expected to overtake the American film market within the next decade.

The six-page Mother Jones piece by Andy Kroll isn’t online so here are some of my takeaways from the piece:


  • Katzenberg, who is worth an estimated $800 million, donated $3.15 million to Democratic super-PACs during the 2012 election cycle. (He potentially donated more to other groups which aren’t required by law to disclose donor lists.)

  • He helped raise nearly $30 million from other Hollywood figures, including a $1 million donation from Steven Spielberg. According to actor Will Smith, “Jeffrey has no problem asking you for, like, way too much money.”
  • Katzenberg is considered unique among President Barack Obama fundraisers for his tenacity and personal involvement. One person in the article said, “He’s like soy sauce in Chinese food: He’s everywhere,” and another commented, “No one in the United States did what Katzenberg did. He is in a class of one.”
  • Katzenberg and his political advisor Andy Spahn visited the White House an average of once a month during Obama’s first term as U. S. President.
  • Obama takes Katzenberg’s phone calls personally.
  • The son of a Wall Street stockbroker, Katzenberg has been involved in politics since childhood. In his teens and early-twenties, Katzenberg worked as an aide to NY mayor John Lindsay, and helped during Lindsay’s 1972 run for President.
  • Katzenberg’s wife, Marilyn, first saw Senator Obama in 2006 on Oprah and encouraged her husband to meet him. Obama reminded Katzenberg of John Lindsay. Katzenberg said in a TV interview that Lindsay was “very much about hope and about engagement and change. All the things we hear today were things he represented in 1965.”
  • Obama has said of the Katzenbergs: “Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg have been tireless and stalwart and have never wavered through good times and bad since my first presidential race, back when a lot of people still couldn’t pronounce my name. I will always be grateful to them.”
  • It’s not clear what Katzenberg’s endgame is from supporting the President, but most presume that easier access to the Chinese film market is a big part of his motivation.
  • When China’s top leader ‪Xi Jinping‬ visited the U. S. in 2011, Katzenberg sat next to him at a State Department luncheon. Later that week in California, Katzenberg announced a $350 million deal to open Oriental DreamWorks, with Jinping’s personal approval.
  • Vice-President Joe Biden asked Jeffrey Katzenberg and Disney CEO Bob Iger what they thought was a fair solution to the profit-sharing disputes between the Chinese government and U. S. film studios. Biden was able to craft a new agreement that gave 25% of the profits to film studios, and also allowed more American 3-D and IMAX movies to be released in China.
  • Katzenberg’s advisor Andy Spahn denies that Katzenberg had discussions with anybody in the Obama administration about his Oriental DreamWorks venture or that he played a role in the deal that Biden made with the Chinese government about film profit-sharing.
  • DreamWorks is among several studios that are under federal investigation for possibly violating US anti-bribery laws in China.
  • Katzenberg is involved in politics beyond Obama. He is set to cohost a fundraiser soon for the 2014 Senate bid of Newark mayor Cory Booker. He also helped raise $150,000 for the Los Angeles mayoral bid of former DreamWorks employee Wendy Greuel.
  • 0 Comments on Why Jeffrey Katzenberg is Considered Among the Most Powerful People in American Politics as of 4/26/2013 1:49:00 PM
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    5. President Barack Obama Gets Edited

    Ever wonder what it looks like when Barack Obama gets edited?

    The Newsweek Tumblr spotted the photograph embedded above: “A detailed look from White House photographer Pete Souza at Barack Obama, Copy Editor in Chief. ”

    Follow this link to see the full-sized version of the photograph, exploring how Obama edited his Inaugural Address earlier this year. (Via kleinbl00 )

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    6. Obama’s State of the Union Address

    By Elvin Lim


    Obama’s speech last week was an attempt to be as partisan or liberal as possible, while sounding as reasonable as possible. “Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance?” the president asked as part of this strategy. The Republican Party continues to suffer an image problem of being out of the mainstream, and the president was trying to capitalize on this moment of vulnerability. There is broad support for preventing the budget “sequester,” on minimum wage legislation, and a path to citizenship for children of immigrants — the president knows it, and he is leveraging public support to try to secure compliance from errant members of Congress.

    As he showed in his Second Inaugural Address, this is not a president willing to mince his words any more. To talk about climate change and the “overwhelming judgment of science” is to take a clear, uncompromising position. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations,” he said, “I will.” Presidents at least since Theodore Roosevelt have painted themselves as active problem-solvers, as opposed to bickering members of Congress, in order to justify a muscular, even unilateral executive branch. Conservatives who are quicker to see this pattern in liberal presidents should remember the perils of presidential bravado in the next conservative administration; liberals who are enjoying their president pulling his weight should pause to consider if they can consistently stomach the same unilateralism in a different time for different purposes, when it is a conservative president who proclaims, “Now’s the time to get it done.”

    Get it done. They deserve a vote. Send me a bill. But the Constitution doesn’t work like that. The televised address makes it look like the president is legislator-in-chief, but he is anything but that. He can only execute the law; but to make the law he wants to execute, he needs Congress. So it may be a stroke of luck that a day after Obama’s speech, the news cycle is still consumed with the Christopher Dorner story, suggesting that Americans are tired of politics and political news after the previous year of campaign mud-slinging. Obama’s supporters want him to get on the permanent campaign, but some forget that doing well on the speech circuit could well generate congressional resentment and mobilize the “party of ‘no’” against him. There is a time for splashy, public campaigns; but look out for silent strokes of executive action in the days to come. “Decision, activity, secrecy, and despatch” are and remain the hallmarks of the executive Publius defended in Federalist 70. Obama has already signaled unabashedly that he will make the tough decisions. He appears to be doing so very publicly, but there is a secret side to transformative agendas. When the going gets tough and Congress doesn’t get going, expect Obama to be traversing his agenda with much despatch. His State of the Union address this year constitutes full disclosure, if we care to parse it carefully.

    Elvin Lim is Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com and his column on politics appears on the OUPblog regularly.

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    0 Comments on Obama’s State of the Union Address as of 2/19/2013 11:57:00 AM
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    7. The presidents that time forgot

    By Michael J. Gerhardt


    If you think that Barack Obama can only learn how to build a lasting legacy from our most revered presidents like Abraham Lincoln, you should think twice. I am sure that Obama knows what great presidents did that made them great. He can also learn, however, from some once popular presidents who are now forgotten because they made mistakes or circumstances that helped to bury their legacies.

    Enduring presidential legacies require presidents to do things and express constitutional visions that stand the test of time. To be lasting, presidential legacies need to inspire subsequent presidents and generations to build on them. Without such inspiration and investment, legacies are lost and eventually forgotten.

    Consider, for example, James Monroe who was the only man besides Obama to be the third president in a row to be reelected. Once wildly popular, he is now largely forgotten. His first term was known as the era of good feelings because it coincided with the demise of any viable opposition party. When he was reelected in 1820, he won every electoral vote but one. Yet, most Americans know nothing about his presidency except perhaps the “Monroe Doctrine” supporting American intervention to protect the Americas from European interference. The doctrine endures because subsequent presidents have adhered to it.

    Monroe’s record is largely forgotten for three reasons: First, his legislative achievements eroded over time. He authorized two of the most significant laws enacted in the nineteenth century — the Missouri Compromise, restricting slavery in the Missouri territory, and the Tenure in Office Act, which restricted the terms of certain executive branch officials. But, subsequent presidents differed over both laws’ constitutionality and tried to repeal or amend them. Eventually, the Supreme Court struck them both down.

    Second, Monroe had no distinctive vision of the presidency or Constitution. He entered office as the fourth and last member of the Virginia dynasty of presidents. He had nothing to offer that could match the vision and stature of his three predecessors from Virginia — Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.  Even with no opposition party, he was unsure where to lead the country. His last two years in office were so fractious, they became known as the era of bad feelings.

    Third, Monroe had no close political ally to follow him in office. While he had been his mentor Madison’s logical successor, Monroe had no natural heir. Subsequent presidents, including John Quincy Adams who had been his Secretary of State, felt little fidelity to his legacy.

    If President Obama wants to avoid Monroe’s mistakes, he must plan for the future. He should consider whom he would like to follow him and which of his legislative initiatives Republicans might support. If Obama stands on the sidelines in the next election or fails to produce significant bipartisan achievements in his second term, he risks having his successor(s) bury his legacy.

    Grover Cleveland, another two-term president, is more forgotten than Monroe. If he is remembered at all, it is as the only man to serve two, non-consecutive terms as president. He was the only Democrat elected in the second half of the nineteenth century and the only president other than Franklin Roosevelt to have won most of the popular vote in three consecutive presidential elections.

    Yet, Cleveland’s record is forgotten because he blocked rather than built things. He devoted his first term to vetoing laws he thought favored special interests. He cast more vetoes than any president except for FDR, and in his second term the Senate retaliated against his efforts to remove executive officials to create vacancies to fill by stalling hundreds of his nominations.

    Cleveland successfully appealed to the American people to break the impasse with the Senate, but his constant clashes with Congress took their toll. In his second term, his disdain for Congress, bullying its members to do what he wanted, and stubbornness prevented him from reaching any meaningful accord to deal with the worst economic downturn before the Great Depression of the 1930s. While Cleveland resisted building bridges to Republicans in Congress, Obama still has time to build some.

    Finally, Calvin Coolidge had the vision and rhetoric required for an enduring legacy, but his results failed the test of time. He was virtually unknown when he became Republican Warren Harding’s Vice-President. But, when Harding died, Coolidge inherited a scandal-ridden administration. He worked methodically with Congress to root out the corruption in the administration, established regular press briefings, and easily won the 1924 presidential election  Over the next four years, he signed the most significant federal disaster relief bill until Hurricane Katrina and the first federal regulations of broadcasting and aviation. He supported establishing the World Court and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war.

    Coolidge’s vision had wide appeal. His conviction that the business of America was business still resonates among many Republicans, but he quickly squandered his good will with the Republican-led Senate when, shortly after his inauguration in 1925, he insisted on re-nominating Charles Warren as Attorney General after it had rejected his nomination. Coolidge could have easily won reelection, but he lost interest in politics after his son died in 1924. He did not help his Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover win the presidency in 1928 and said nothing as the economy lapsed into the Great Depression. His penchant for silence, for which he was widely ridiculed, and the failures of his international initiatives and economic policies destroyed his legacy.

    As Obama enters his second term, he cannot stand above the fray like Monroe and Coolidge. He must lead the nation through it. He must work with Congress rather than become mired in squabbles with it as did Cleveland, whose contempt for Congress and limited vision made grand bargains impossible. On many issues, including gay rights and solving the debt ceiling, President Obama’s detachment has allowed him to be perceived as having been led rather than leading. He still has a chance to lead through his words and actions and define his legacy as something more than his having been the first African-American elected president or the controversy over the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Unlike forgotten presidents, he still has the means to construct a legacy Americans will value and remember, but to avoid their fates he must use them — now.

    Michael Gerhardt is Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A nationally recognized authority on constitutional conflicts, he has testified in several Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and has published several books, including The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy.

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    Image credit: Images from The Forgotten Presidents.

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    8. Investing in Education: Kyle Zimmer’s Reaction to the State of the Union

    “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.” — President Barack Obama

    I was grateful to hear the president talk about early childhood education tonight, and the enormous impact it has on our nation.

    First Book and the importance of early childhood education

    Lack of access to education and resources for America’s most vulnerable children is a national crisis, every bit as serious as immigration reform, gun control and the national debt. But unlike so many other complex problems, this is one we know how to solve.

    We have been talking about these children for generations. All that’s lacking is the political will.

    Although the issues we face are complex, we know that early childhood education is the most straightforward solution; every study shows that there’s nothing more valuable than turning a child into a reader at an early age. They enter school with greater knowledge and vocabularies; they do better not just on reading tests, but on math tests. They have the foundation they need to succeed — in school and in life.

    We know what happens otherwise. As President Obama alluded to, kids who drop out of high school are far more likely to be jobless, become teen parents, or end up in prison, and far less likely to become informed, engaged citizens. While we debate endlessly, an entire generation of leaders, thinkers, engineers, artists and writers is being lost to us for lack of opportunities and resources.

    Children from low-income neighborhoods are the most vulnerable. 80 percent of the preschools and after school programs serving children in need do not have a single book for the children they serve. In some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country there is only one book available for every 300 children.

    First Book and the importance of early childhood educationFirst Book, the organization I lead, is committed to helping the 30 million American children living in low-income neighborhoods become success stories. We work with local educators and community leaders across the country to supply them with new, high-quality books. They understand the needs of the children and families in their community, and First Book provides them with the books and educational resources they need.

    So I urge all of you to get involved right now. If you work with kids in need at a Title I school, Head Start center or community program, sign up with First Book today to get new, high-quality books for your kids. You can also volunteer, or donate to support our work.

    This is a crisis, but it’s one that we can solve. And — if we work together — we will.

    Kyle Zimmer is president and CEO of First Book.

    0 Comments on Investing in Education: Kyle Zimmer’s Reaction to the State of the Union as of 2/12/2013 10:42:00 PM
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    9. The non-interventionist moment

    By Andrew J. Polsky


    The signs are clear. President Barack Obama has nominated two leading skeptics of American military intervention for the most important national security cabinet posts. Meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who would prefer a substantial American residual presence after the last American combat troops have departed in 2014, Obama has signaled that he wants a more rapid transition out of an active combat role (perhaps as soon as this spring, rather than during the summer). The president has also countered a push from his own military advisors to keep a sizable force in Afghanistan indefinitely by agreeing to consider the “zero option” of a complete withdrawal. We appear on the verge of a non-interventionist moment in American politics, when leaders and the general public alike shun major military actions.

    Only a decade ago, George W. Bush stood before the graduating class at West Point to proclaim the dawn of a new era in American security policy. Neither deterrence nor containment, he declared, sufficed to deal with the threat posed by “shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend” or with “unbalanced dictators” possessing weapons of mass destruction. “[O]ur security will require all Americans to be forward looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.” This new “Bush Doctrine” would soon be put into effect. In March 2003, the president ordered the US military to invade Iraq to remove one of those “unstable dictators,” Saddam Hussein.

    This post-9/11 sense of assertiveness did not last. Long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan discredited the leaders responsible and curbed any popular taste for military intervention on demand. Over the past two years, these reservations have become obvious as other situations arose that might have invited the use of troops just a few years earlier: Obama intervened in Libya but refused to send ground forces; the administration has rejected direct measures in the Syrian civil war such as no-fly zones; and the president refused to be stampeded into bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.

    The reaction against frustrating wars follows a familiar historical pattern. In the aftermath of both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Americans expressed a similar reluctance about military intervention. Soon after the 1953 truce that ended the Korean stalemate, the Eisenhower administration faced the prospect of intervention in Indochina, to forestall the collapse of the French position with the pending Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu. As related by Fredrik Logevall in his excellent recent book, Embers of War, both Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles were fully prepared to deploy American troops. But they realized that in the backwash from Korea neither the American people nor Congress would countenance unilateral action. Congressional leaders indicated that allies, the British in particular, would need to participate. Unable to secure agreement from British foreign secretary Anthony Eden, Eisenhower and Dulles were thwarted, and decided instead to throw their support behind the new South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.

    Another period marked by reluctance to use force followed the Vietnam War. Once the last American troops withdrew in 1973, Congress rejected the possibility they might return, banning intervention in Indochina without explicit legislative approval. Congress also adopted the War Powers Resolution, more significant as a symbolic statement about the wish to avoid being drawn into a protracted military conflict by presidential initiative than as a practical measure to curb presidential bellicosity.

    It is no coincidence that Obama’s key foreign and defense policy nominees were shaped by the crucible of Vietnam. Both Chuck Hagel and John Kerry fought in that war and came away with “the same sensibility about the futilities of war.” Their outlook contrasts sharply with that of Obama’s initial first-term selections to run the State Department and the Pentagon: both Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates backed an increased commitment of troops in Afghanistan in 2009. Although Senators Hagel and Kerry supported the 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, they became early critics of the war. Hagel has expressed doubts about retaining American troops in Afghanistan or using force against Iran.

    Given the present climate, we are unlikely to see a major American military commitment during the next several years. Obama’s choice of Kerry and Hagel reflect his view that, as he put it in the 2012 presidential debate about foreign policy, the time has come for nation-building at home. It will suffice in the short run to hold distant threats at bay. Insofar as possible, the United States will rely on economic sanctions and “light footprint” methods such as drone strikes on suspected terrorists.

    If the past is any guide, however, this non-interventionist moment won’t last.  The post-Korea and post-Vietnam interludes of reluctance gave way within a decade to a renewed willingness to send American troops into combat. By the mid-1960s, Lyndon Johnson had embraced escalation in Vietnam; Ronald Reagan made his statement through his over-hyped invasion of Grenada to crush its pipsqueak revolutionary regime. The American people backed both decisions.

    The return to interventionism will recur because the underlying conditions that invite it have not changed significantly. In the global order, the United States remains the hegemonic power that seeks to preserve stability. We retain a military that is more powerful by several orders of magnitude than any other, and will surely remain so even after the anticipate reductions in defense spending. Psychologically, the American people have long been sensitive to distant threats, and we have shown that we can be stampeded into endorsing military action when a president identifies a danger to our security. (And presidents themselves become vulnerable to charges that they are tolerating American decline whenever a hostile regime comes to power anywhere in the world.)

    Those of us who question the American proclivity to resort to the use of force, then, should enjoy the moment.

    Andrew Polsky is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. A former editor of the journal Polity, his most recent book is Elusive Victories: The American Presidency at War. Read Andrew Polsky’s previous blog posts.

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    10. Isaiah’s Inauguration: A Children’s Story from Obama’s First Inauguration


    Isaiah’s Inauguration
    by Deborah Frisch

    “Look, you can see your breath,” I puffed at my little sister Sarita. She waved one of the small American flags that the scouts had given us through my steamy cloud. It was just getting light, and we were waiting to show the guards our purple tickets so they would let us through a gate to the inauguration. Dad’s friend had gotten the tickets for us, because we really wanted to see Barack Obama become the President of the United States.
    “Isaiah, please ask the security man if this is the purple area,” my mama said to me in Spanish.
    The security man was as tall as a basketball player and as wide as a football player. A woman was holding up an orange ticket to show him.
    When she finished, I asked him my mama’s question, but he didn’t turn toward me.
    ¡No seas del rancho!” my father whispered.  He meant, “Speak up, don’t be shy.”  I asked louder this time, but the huge man still didn’t hear me.
    Then Sarita squeaked, “Is this the purple part?” and he turned our way.
    “We’re all one color now, darlin,” he grinned down at Sarita.
    This was the right place then. From where we stood, the people on the steps of the Capitol Building were no bigger than sprinkles on a cupcake. But we could see the dome very well, with the flags hanging down in front.  As we threaded though the crowd into a little space behind a metal fence, my mother squeezed my arm. “Don’t be shy; just say, ‘Excuse me’,” she told me. As always.
    Sarita and I climbed up on the wide base of a lamppost to get a view between people.  We saw a giant TV screen, with kids singing in a choir.
    “¿Te levanto?  Want me to pick you up?” Dad asked, and he hoisted me onto his shoulders.  There I was, up above everybody—but staring straight into my face was another boy, on his dad’s shoulders.  He gave me a big smile.  I felt so shy I took my dad’s cap off his head and whispered to him, “¡Bájame! Put me down!”
    Back on the ground I asked, “How long before Obama comes out?” and nobody answered me. “I’m freezing,” I complained.  I stamped my feet and waved my little flag.        “Isaiah, be careful you don’t wave that in somebody’s face,” my dad warned.
    The crowd cheered about something on the big screen, but I couldn’t see it. Dad’s belt buckle dug into my ear.
    Between my mom’s feet sat Sarita, laughing.  Clap, slap, clap, slap—“he rocks in the treetops all-a day long…” She was playing pattycake with a little kid, probably the brother of the boy who had smiled at me.
    From up on his dad’s shoulders, that boy was telling his mom, “Malia and Sasha are coming in now!”
    “You want a muffin, Isaiah?” his mom asked him.
    My mama’s mouth dropped open.  “He’s your tocayo!” she said.  That means he and I have the same name.
    I don’t like to talk to people I don’t know, but I just couldn’t stand it!  “MY NAME IS ISAIAH, TOO!”  I yelled up at him.
    “For REAL?” he asked, his eyes open wide.  “I’m the only Isaiah in my school!  We’re probably the only two Isaiahs in this whole crowd!”
    “Well, how about a nice sweet potato muffin for you too, Isaiah, and one for your sister down there?  Is that okay with your mama?”  his mom asked me. I looked at my mama.
    “Andale, okay, dile ‘gracias’,” my mama told me, and his mom handed around these squishy muffins with yellow napkins for all four of us. They were excellent.
    You know how sometimes you eat something good, and it makes you morehungry?  Now my parents took the tamales out of their pockets.  The security guards hadn’t let people in with lunch bags, so mom and dad had tamales in sandwich bags in their inside coat pockets.  They handed them to the other family and to us—the tamales were still warm.
    “This is DELICIOUS!”  Isaiah’s dad’s voice boomed out after his first bite.  “I never had ‘em homemade before!” Everybody else loved them too.  I felt proud.
    By that time Sarita was teaching Isaiah’s brother to play “al citron.”It’s a game where you sing a song and pass some small thing around—me and Isaiah hunkered down with the little kids and played, passing Obama buttons we got that day.
    It was funny to be between so many feet and legs.  My dad was wearing his cowboy boots—my tocayo’s dad had big yellow construction boots.  There were high-heels and sneakers and old lady shoes.
    The next time our two dads put us up on their shoulders, I wasn’t shy at all any more.  We gave our moms and dads news of what was on the big screens, and why people were cheering.  We came up with a special way to wave our flags: when people chanted O-BAM-AH, on the AH we bumped our fists together, and the flags flew!
    At last the Chief Justice came to swear Obama in.  Michelle was holding the Bible for him.  Isaiah’s mom started to cry.  She was hugging mi tocayo’s dad, but then she turned and hugged mi mama, and she started crying too.
    Sarita’s lip trembled. “Why are you crying, mama?” she asked, and mama answered, “Because we’ve all been through so much.”  Mi tocayo’s mom nodded to say “That’s the truth.”  They both had the same look, happy and sad, but more happy.
    Isaiah got a pen from his dad, wrote his phone number on the bottom white stripe of his flag, and gave it to me.  I wrote my number on the pole and gave it to him.  Then we both stuck the flagpoles in the backs of our jackets, so the flags were waving over our heads.
    I felt so happy with our new president.  And with mi tocayo, my new friend.

    Deborah Frisch
    A Brooklyn girl, Deborah finished her studies in Teaching English as a Second Language and found that New York City couldn’t afford to employ her during its budget crisis of the mid ‘70’s.  So she took off for Cancún, Mexico.  There everyone she met wanted to study English.  She founded a language school that ran for 24 years and served up to 400 students daily.
    But after 13 years in Cancún, Deborah and her young son had many reasons for returning to the U.S.
    In California she married and had another son.  For several years she has been teaching ESL to a great crowd of UC Berkeley’s Visiting Scholars and others at Albany Adult School.  She also supports foreign students at Academy of Art U. in SF.
    Deborah has developed and published several games and materials for learning English. She presents her work at teachers’ conferences, often with bilingual children’s author Rene Colato Lainez. Then she comes home and writes. Visit her at http://www.deborahsusanfrisch.com/

    2 Comments on Isaiah’s Inauguration: A Children’s Story from Obama’s First Inauguration, last added: 1/25/2013
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    11. Richard Blanco Poems You Can Read Online

    Inaugural poet Richard Blanco will read a poem for President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. for the inauguration, but many of our readers have not read his work yet.

    Below, we’ve linked to 14 of Blanco’s poems online, including the free poetry chapbook, Place of MindHere’s more from his official biography:

    Blanco was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States—meaning his mother, seven months pregnant, and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid where he was born. Only forty-five days later, the family emigrated once more and settled in New York City, then eventually in Miami where he was raised and educated. His acclaimed first book of poetry, City of a Hundred Fires, explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban American, and received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. 

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    12. Who’s Who dinner party quiz

    Who’s Who (and its sister publication, Who Was Who) has traditionally included entries for the cream of British society, and in this festive season, the Who’s Who team have come up with a theoretical dinner party where key people from all areas of life, alive and dead, could come together to solve the world’s problems.

    Where else could you find a table where Roald Dahl, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, Clare Balding, Dame Judi Dench, Michael Palin, Caitlin Moran, and Richard Ayoade might rub shoulders, looked after with tender care by Rick Stein and renowned bon viveur Oliver Reed, and hosted at Blenheim Palace by the Duke of Marlborough?

    In a classic game of six (or in this case seven) degrees of separation, can you spot the links between Martin Luther KingBarack ObamaDominic MohanMary BerryLeon McCawleyRonald SearleChristine LagardeIvor Novelloright back round to Martin Luther King?

    Your Score:  

    Your Ranking:  


    Who’s Who is the essential directory of the noteworthy and influential in every area of public life, published worldwide, and written by the entrants themselves. Who’s Who 2013  includes autobiographical information on over 33,000 influential people from all walks of life. The 165th edition includes a foreword by Arianna Huffington on ways technology is rapidly transforming the media.

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    Image credit: Christmas pudding photograph by esp_imaging via iStockphoto

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    13. Barack Obama Shares Bible Verses at Newton Vigil

    In an emotional vigil in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama spoke about the tragedy that occurred in that community last week.

    In his speech, the President quoted three passages from the Bible.  Obama concluded with Matthew 19:14: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them — for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

    You can read a transcript of Obama’s speech online or watch the video below. If you want to see the passages in context, we’ve linked to English Standard Version of the Bible for the individual quotes.

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    14. Mark Halperin & John Heilemann to Reunite for Game Change 2012

    Journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann will once again be teaming up on a new nonfiction project. Following the success of their 2010 title, Game Change, the writing duo plans to pen Double Down: Game Change 2012.

    This book will examine Presidential race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Penguin Press president and editor-in-chief Ann Godoff negotiated the deal with The Wylie Agency’s Andrew Wylie. According to The New York Times, the publisher has planned a release date for fall 2013.

    Here’s more from The Hollywood Reporter: “The book already has been optioned by HBO. The cable network aired Game Change, a Jay Roach-directed and Danny Strong-written movie about the 2008 election that in September won four Emmys, including one for Julianne Moore‘s performance as Sarah Palin. Roach and Strong are likely to return for the sequel.”

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    15. Why Writers Should Read Rap Genius

    Rap Genius scored $15 million in funding earlier this year, an investment to expand the community that loves to annotate rap lyrics.

    Most writers don’t know it, but the site contains annotations for everything from 2Pac lyrics to F. Scott Fitzgerald prose to letters from Barack Obama to Chapter One of Genesis to Jay-Z lyrics.  The site has a simple goal: “Our aim is not to translate rap into nerdspeak,’ but rather to critique rap as poetry.”

    Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam introduced the site at Mediabistro’s Social Curation Summit this week. If you want to annotate your favorite lyrics, you need to sign up for a Rap Genius account. If you want to add a song, poem, speech or story to the database, simply click “Add a New Song” button. You have to chose a rap, rock, poetry or other genre.

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    16. In which I at long last travel to Bryson City, home of my great grandfather, Horace Kephart





    I have written of my great grandfather here on this blog and elsewhere (Tin House magazine) many times. Horace Kephart has been credited with helping to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  He was an author and a campcrafter, a brilliant librarian who left academia to live among the Appalachian people, to understand them.  He has been the subject of countless articles, at least one novel, a stunning song cycle, a lengthy segment in the recent Ken Burns series of National Parks, theatrical productions.  He is celebrated yearly during Horace Kephart Days (an event largely organized by my cousin, Libby).  He has been praised by Barack Obama.  He has been lovingly attended to by George Ellison, a biographer of heart and intelligence.  He has been discussed, parsed, debated, and he continues to be the subject of ongoing scholarship and interest.

    I had never had the opportunity to visit Bryson City, where Kephart lived for many years and where he is buried.  I hadn't been able to go, in fact, until this past Sunday, a misty day in the Carolinas.  We had been in Asheville for a glorious wedding.  My husband drove the mountain roads.  When we found Bryson City, we stopped and walked.  Seeing the Historic Calhoun Hotel and Country Inn, I made the decision to be bold.  To knock on the door and see what might happen, for I had heard that this innkeeper had a Horace Kephart library and a respect for Kephart's work.

    We were in the south, and so politeness ruled.  Mr. Luke D. Hyde, the Calhoun innkeeper and a key player in the ongoing sanctuary that is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, didn't just open the door; he invited us in.  He told us his stories, shared images, took us up to his Kephart library (see the portrait of my great grandfather on that wall), even gave me a copy of Kephart's work on the Cherokee Indians.  Then he sent us on our way, and I will always be touched by the time he took and the generosity he showed.

    Kephart is buried on a hill beside a small church.  He is buried no more than a half mile away from one of my best friends' childhood homes.  I heard from Ann as we were walking the incline.  I saw her home in the near distance.  I felt her spirit beside me.  Ann has visited Kephart's grave for many years; members of her family are buried nearby.  I wish I was with you, Ann wrote.  And how I wished, too.

    Finally, as I was making my way through Bryson City, I heard from my dear friend Katrina Kenison.  I have known Katrina since the beginning of my publishing time (truly) and written of her often here.  Once, years ago, Katrina, who so deeply understands and loves the natural world, sent me a copy of Kephart's Camp Cookery, which sits right here on my shelf.  I had written of Katrina's gift when it came.  On Sunday I was the recipient of yet another kind of gift, for Katrina was reading Handling the Truth and there in the hills of Bryson City, I read her thoughts about its early pages for the first time.

    Blessed.


    6 Comments on In which I at long last travel to Bryson City, home of my great grandfather, Horace Kephart, last added: 12/13/2012
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    17. What makes this World AIDS Day different from all others?

    1 December is World AIDS Day. Here Kenneth Mayer, MD, explains what makes the 2012 observance different from all those before – and, hopefully, those to come. Dr. Mayer is Co-Editor of Clinical Issues in HIV Medicine, Co-Chair of the HIVMA/IDSA Center for Global Health Policy’s Scientific Advisory Committee, founding Medical Research Director of Fenway Health, a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School, and an attending physician and director of HIV Prevention Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

    By Kenneth Mayer


    Last year, on World AIDS Day, U.S. President Barack Obama set ambitious goals to reach more people with treatment and fundamental prevention. Echoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call for an “AIDS-free generation,” he envisioned a tipping point in a 30-year battle to subdue the world’s costliest epidemic.

    This World AIDS Day, the administration’s release of a global AIDS roadmap takes the vision into practice. Outlining the U.S. government’s commitment to apply research to reality, with the efforts of affected countries and other donors, it is as much a promise as a challenge.

    The plan serves as a solid indication that three decades into a struggle that began without direction, and that sometimes seemed futile, the U.S. has set a course to continue the pace it has achieved in the last year, while giving partners encouragement and reason to match those efforts. It underscores, at a time of worldwide economic challenges and competing concerns, that this investment will yield gains, this is a battle that can be won, and this is not the time to stand still.

    The global health community and its researchers, policy makers, donors, field workers, and affected populations know what to do to begin to end this epidemic, and now need to do it. To realize the magnitude of this opportunity, compare where we are now to where we were 31 years ago when fear, ignorance, and prejudice stymied responses while AIDS’ death toll multiplied exponentially as it circled the world. With little clue as to how the virus was transmitted from 1981 to 1985 rumors and mistrust also spread. Through epidemiological research we overcame the terror of those years, understanding that without blood exchange or intimate sexual contact the virus was not readily transmitted. Researchers’ discovery in the mid-1990s that combinations of antiretroviral drugs could arrest the virus changed it from a death sentence into a manageable disease, for many. Shamefully, the cost of those drugs kept the benefit of that breakthrough from being shared in the poor countries where relief was most needed. Finally, in the last decade, with the importation of generic medicines, the establishment of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, work to confront the epidemic emerged from laboratories and wealthy countries, to what are now some of the most formidable front lines.

    Yet we continue to fall short. We know that injection drugs are a major vector for HIV transmission, but many countries punish users of those drugs rather treat them with opioid substitution therapy and protect them with needle exchange programs. Homophobia and criminalization of gay sex threaten efforts to even count the toll in countries where HIV is most prevalent. Programs to prevent transmission of the virus from mothers to infants are hobbled by constraints on family planning commodities. Sex workers are marginalized by efforts that exclude their input. Treatment and prevention programs fail to reach people with physical and mental disabilities. While tuberculosis is the primary killer of people living with HIV, screening and treatment for the two diseases remain unlinked. While donors have imported some of the means to fight the epidemic, too often they have imported answers as well, failing to allow for the diversity of needs and affected populations in different countries.

    With a plan that includes the needs of all affected populations, the tools we have now will be powerful. The study known as HPTN 052 showed that early initiation of antiretroviral therapy could decrease the transmission of HIV in couples in which only one partner was HIV-positive by 96 percent. The use of an antiretroviral drug as pre-exposure prophylaxis in combination with other risk-reduction measures, was shown to be effective in protecting men who have sex with men, and heterosexual men and women from acquiring the virus.

    These discoveries will be useless, however, if people who need medicine to save their lives don’t get it. While eight million people are getting treatment, 34 million are living with the virus. Maintaining the momentum of treatment coverage that the U.S. has achieved in the last year in Africa is imperative to meet the original humanitarian mission of the response as well as to continued progress.

    Then, with shared responsibility and political will, the next World AIDS Day can be one on which we can see the end of the road, far ahead but certain, when we can stop the further spread of HIV.

    To raise awareness of World AIDS Day, Dr. Mayer and Daniel Kuritzkes, MD (Co-Editor of Clinical Issues in HIV Medicine) have selected recent, topical articles, which have been made freely available for a limited time by  The Journal of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Infectious Diseases. Both journals are publications of the HIV Medicine Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

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    Image credits: World AIDS Day press images via worldaidsday.org media centre.

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    18. Clay Smith Joins Kirkus Media

    Texas Book Festival literary director Clay Smith has been named the new features editor at Kirkus Media.

    Smith will expand the features section at the literary outlet, adding “more reported articles about writers and reading trends.” He had worked at the Texas Book Festival since 2005, booking hundreds of writers, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Salman Rushdie, Sandra Cisneros and Amy Sedaris.

    Here’s more from the release: “he wrote for Publishers Weekly, indiewire.com, and Newsday, among others. He has recently written for The Daily Beast, Elle Décor, and Newsday. While at the Texas Book Festival, Smith worked closely with small and large publishers to create a diverse program of national and Texas writers. With the participation of the Litquake Foundation and other partners, he added Lit Crawl Austin to the Festival’s program and grew sales of books during the two-day weekend.”

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    19. ISBN: 978-1-60699-623-2Available September 2012Diamond order...



    ISBN: 978-1-60699-623-2
    Available September 2012
    Diamond order code: JUN121131
    Order through Fantagraphics
    Order through Amazon



    BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA is a challenging and idiosyncratic book that describes its subject from a great, absurd, and comic distance. It’s closer to the kind of associative resonance of poetry than what you would expect of a book called BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, released just weeks before [the real] Obama’s attempt at a second term in office. It has very little to do with actual reality, and weirdly seems more real than it has any right to be. 

    In their original online iteration, these strips seemed like funny, weird non sequiturs, beginning not long after Obama’s election in 2009. Presented here, all together in untouched, “at-size” scans from the sketchbook Weissman drew them in, they seem less humorous and more like the slow aggregation of a large portrait, maybe not of the man, but of the time the man is living in. Or maybe closer to the truth—because let’s face it, I don’t know—is that it’s a portrait of what a person like Obama “means,” the intensity of the history and anger and hope and cynicism surrounding one man and his band of plucky lieutenants. Many of the strips repeat his name, “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA,” either as a title or as punctuation. As the story gets weirder and weirder, that metronome clicks along: BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA.

    Is BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA meant to be a metaphor for the first—maybe only?—term of a president who, pinned with the hopes and enmities of an entire nation, is in fact a regular human who can crumble under pressure? Or a metaphor for the time that man lives in, a gross time, a time where nothing means anything that can’t be stripped away and spun over and over into any direction needed? Because the Obama of BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA is a man who seems increasingly sad, confused; not only bowing under pressure but sinking. A man who talks to ghosts, who becomes a giant parakeet and flies with his two hip children to a desert island, where he regresses to egg state.

    It could be all these things and more: the pages are an amalgam of Weissman’s gestural, affably abstracted cartooning style and layers and layers of Zip-A-Tone, the old adhesive tone used by mid-century illustrators and cartoonists to simulate tones and gradations. Weissman definitely doesn’t hide the lines either—you can see the artist’s hand all over the book, tucking bits of meaning everywhere, whether it’s tone, adhesive tape to block out the “panels”, colored lettering, or swashes of marker on top of everything. Everything is layered with potential multiple meanings. Even the cover blurbs are absurd and meta, consisting of out-of-context quotes from Hulk Hogan, George W. Bush, and this one from Fox News: “[Barack Hussein] Obama is okay…”

    Nothing is real, nothing is straight ahead in this book. What Obama’s presidency “meant” at the beginning of his term is much different than whatever it is now; much more complex, much more “real,” and also very very surreal. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA manages to double this weird descent from giddy hopefulness to present-day miasma. I loved reading it; I love Steve Weissman and his work, but more importantly I loved how challenging it was, both during the reading of it, and especially now, trying to describe it. I hope the reader leafing through it in that bookstore will find it as pleasantly challenging.

    (a longer, more image heavy version of this review is on my site)



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    20. Samuel L. Jackson Reads ‘Wake the F*** Up’ to Support Barack Obama

    Actor Samuel L. Jackson has recorded Wake the F*** Up, a campaign video for the Jewish Council for Education and Research that parodies his enormously popular audiobook reading of Adam Mansbach‘s Go the F*** to Sleep.

    We’ve embedded the video above–what do you think? While the video supports Barack Obama, his campaign did not endorse the video ad.

    Yahoo has more about the video: “Adam Mansbach, who wrote the book, also penned the script for the video (set to dramatic, kid-action-filmesque music), which follows a young girl as she goes from room to room of her house, attempting to reenergize her jaded family into taking part in the Obama campaign this time around like they did four years ago. Though Jackson wasn’t signed on to star in the spot when Mansbach wrote the dialogue, he did revise it for the movie star, a task he calls ‘great fun.’” (Via WWLA & Slate)

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    21. Big Bird - Obama for America TV Ad


    1 Comments on Big Bird - Obama for America TV Ad, last added: 10/10/2012
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    22. Poets Who Inspired Presidents

    The Poetry Foundation has published “Poetic Presidents,” a study of 12 Presidents and “the poets that inspired them.”

    Just in time for the election, the match-ups include George Washington and Phyllis Wheatley (the first African-American female to publish a book of poetry), John F. Kennedy and Robert Frost (the first poet to perform a reading at a presidential swearing in event) and Barack Obama and Elizabeth Alexander.

    Here’s more from the article: “Politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose, former New York governor Mario Cuomo once said. While it’s debatable whether this epically long and tumultuous election cycle has inspired much verse, we at the Poetry Foundation would like to think that poetry has its place at the White House regardless of who emerges as the victor on November 6.”

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    23. Watching Nate Silver’s Amazon Rank

    FiveThirtyEight blogger and author Nate Silver gave Mitt Romney an eight percent chance of winning the election today.

    He wrote:  ”I hope you’ll excuse the cliché, but it’s appropriate here: in poker, making an inside straight requires you to catch one of 4 cards out of 48 remaining in the deck, the chances of which are about 8 percent. Those are now about Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast. As any poker player knows, those 8 percent chances do come up once in a while.”

    In recent weeks, Silver has defended his statistical methods against all sorts of attacks, and his book has spent 50 days in the Amazon Top 100 of all books. Writer Rex Sorgatz made an interesting point this morning. Silver is staking his reputation as a blogger and an author on this election, and Sorgatz thinks ”the real number to be watching today is Nate Silver’s Amazon book ranking.”

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    24. 5 Free Books That Inspired Barack Obama

    CNN has projected that President Barack Obama will win the 2012 Presidential election. We’ve collected links to five free eBooks that inspired Obama during his road to the Presidency.

    In a 2009 essay, New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani wr0te about the books that inspired the President. Here’s an excerpt:

    Mr. Obama’s love of fiction and poetry — Shakespeare’s plays, Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” and Marilynne Robinson‘s “Gilead” are mentioned on his Facebook page, along with the Bible, Lincoln’s collected writings and Emerson’s “Self Reliance“ — has not only given him a heightened awareness of language. It has also imbued him with a tragic sense of history and a sense of the ambiguities of the human condition quite unlike the Manichean view of the world so often invoked by Mr. Bush.

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    25. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Publish Memoir

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor has written a memoir titled My Beloved World. Random House’s Knopf imprint will release the book on January 15, 2013.

    President Barack Obama appointed Sotomayor in 2009. Following her confirmation, she became the third female and first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court.

    Here’s more from The Washington Post: “Sotomayor mentioned the title and the release date Friday after speaking to law students…Sotomayor told students stories about her days in law school, as a prosecutor and now as a justice. She said that many more stories about her life could be found in the book.”

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