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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Barack Obama, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Maxine Hong Kingston & Julia Alvarez Honored as Recipients of the National Medal of Arts

Writers Maxine Hong Kingston and Julia Alvarez have been awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Here’s more from the press release: “The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.”

President Barack Obama himself presented all the recipients with their medals in a ceremony at the White House. Follow these links to check out podcasts featuring Kingston and Alvarez. (Photo Credit: Jocelyn Augustino)

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2. Barack Obama Finally Honors America’s Greatest Animation Artist

On Monday, Jeffrey Katzenberg became just the second animation figure to receive the National Medal of Arts.

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3. Jeffrey Katzenberg Will Receive National Medal of Arts

President Obama will honor DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg with the 2013 National Medal of Arts.

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4. Obama’s predicament in his final years as President

By Daniel J. Sargent


The arc of a presidency is long, but it bends towards failure. So, to paraphrase Barack Obama, seems to be the implication of recent events. Set aside our domestic travails, for which Congress bears primary responsibility, and focus on foreign policy, where the president plays a freer hand. In East Asia, China is rising and truculent, scrapping with its neighbors over territory and maritime resources. From Hanoi to Canberra, the neighbors are buttressing their military forces and clinging to Washington’s security blanket. Across Eurasia, Vladimir Putin is pushing with sly restraint to reverse the strategic setbacks of 1989-91. America’s European allies are troubled but not to the point of resolution. At just 1.65 percent of GDP, the EU’s military spending lags far behind Russia’s, at 4.5 percent of GDP. The United States, the Europeans presume, will continue to provide, much as it has done since the late 1940s.

Washington’s last and longest wars are, meanwhile, descending towards torrid denouements. Afghanistan’s fate is tenuous. Free elections are heartening, but whether the Kabul government can govern, much less survive the withdrawal of US forces scheduled for 2016 is uncertain. Iraq, from which Obama in 2011 declared us liberated, is catastrophic. The country is imploding, caught in the firestorm of Sunni insurgency that has overwhelmed the Levant. We may yet witness genocide. We may yet witness American personnel scrambling into helicopters as they evacuate Baghdad’s International Zone, a scene that will recall the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975. The situations are not analogous: should ISIS militia penetrate Baghdad, the outcome will be less decisive than was North Vietnam’s 1975 conquest of South Vietnam, but for the United States the results will be no less devastating. America’s failure in Iraq would be undeniable, and all that would remain would be the allocation of blame.

We have traveled far from Grant Park, where an inspirational campaign culminated in promises of an Aquarian future. We are no longer in Oslo, where a president newly laden with a Nobel Prize spoke of rejuvenating an international order “buckling under the weight of new threats.” Obama’s charisma, intellect, and personality, all considerable, have not remade the world; instead, a president who conjured visions of a “just and lasting peace” now talks about hitting singles and doubles. There have in fairness been few errors, although Obama’s declaration that US troops will leave Afghanistan in 2016 may count as such. The problem is rather the conjuncture of setbacks, many deep-rooted, that now envelops US foreign policy. These setbacks are not Barack Obama’s fault, but deal with them he must. The irony is this: dire circumstances, above all Iraq, made Obama’s presidential campaign credible and secured his election. Dire circumstances, including Iraq, may now be overwhelming Obama’s presidency.

Cerebral and introspective, Obama may rue that the last years of presidencies are often difficult. Truman left the White House with his ratings in the gutter, while Eisenhower in his last years seemed to critics doddery and obsolete. But for Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s presidency might have ended in ignominy. Yet a president’s last years can be years of reinvention, even years of renewal. With the mid-terms not yet upon us, the fourth part of Obama’s day has not passed; its shape is still being defined.

Barack Obama speaks in Cairo, Egypt, 4 June 2009. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Notorious as a time of setbacks, the 1970s offer examples of late-term reinventions. Henry Kissinger, serving President Ford, in 1974-76 and Jimmy Carter in 1979-80 snatched opportunity from adversity; their examples may be salutary. The mid-1970s found Kissinger’s foreign policy in a nadir: political headwinds were blowing against the East-West détente that he and Richard Nixon had built, even as Congress voted to deny the administration the tools to confront Soviet adventurism in the Third World. Transatlantic relations were at low ebb, as the industrialized countries competed to secure supplies of oil and to overcome a tightening world recession. Alarmed by the deterioration of core alliances, Kissinger in 1974-76 pivoted away from his prior fixation with the Cold War’s grand chessboard and set to work rebuilding the Western Alliance. As he did so, he pioneered international economic governance through the G-7 summits and restored the comity of the West. Kissinger even engaged with the Third World, proposing an international food bank to feed the world’s poorest and aligning the United States with black majority rule in sub-Saharan Africa. Amidst transient adversity, Kissinger laid the foundations for a post-Cold War foreign policy, and the benefits abounded in the decades that followed.

Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s inherited serious challenges, some of which he exacerbated. Soviet-American détente was already on the ropes, but Carter’s outspoken defenses of Soviet human rights added to the strain. The Shah of Iran, a longtime client, was already in trouble, but the strains on his regime intensified under Carter, who sent mixed messages. Pahlavi’s tumbling in the winter of 1978-79 and the ensuing hostage crisis threw Carter’s foreign policy off the rails. Months later, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Carter responded by reorienting US foreign policy towards an invigorated Cold War posture. He embargoed the USSR, escalated defense spending, rallied the West, and expanded cooperation with China. This Cold War turn was counterintuitive, being a departure from Carter’s initial bid to transcend Cold War axioms, but it confirmed his willingness to adapt to new circumstances. Carter’s anti-Soviet turn turned up the fiscal strain on the Soviet Union, helping to precipitate not only the Cold War’s re-escalation but also the Cold War’s resolution. Carter also defined for the United States a new military role in the Persian Gulf, where Washington assumed direct responsibility for the security of oil supplies. This was not what Carter intended to achieve, but he adapted, like Kissinger, to fast-shifting circumstances with creative and far-reaching initiatives.

Late term adaptations such as Kissinger’s and Carter’s may offer cues for President Obama. One lesson of presidencies past is that the frustration of grand designs can be liberating. The Nixon administration in the early 1970s sought to build a “new international structure of peace” atop a Cold War balance of power. Despite initial breakthroughs, Nixon’s design faltered, leaving Ford and Kissinger to pick up the pieces. Carter at the outset envisaged making a new “framework of international cooperation,” but his efforts at architectural renovation also came unstuck. The failures of architecture and the frustration of grand designs nonetheless opened opportunities for practical innovation, which Kissinger, Carter, and others pursued. Even George W. Bush achieved a late reinvention focused on practical multilateralism after his grand strategic bid to democratize the Middle East failed in ignominy. Whether Obama can do the same may hinge upon his willingness to forsake big ideas of the kind that he articulated when he spoke in Cairo of a “new beginning” in US relations with the Muslim world and to refocus on the tangible problems of a complex and unruly world that will submit to grand designs no more readily today than it has done in the past.

Moving forward may also require revisiting favored concepts. Embracing a concept of Cold War politics, Nixon and Kissinger prioritized détente with Soviet Union and neglected US allies. Kissinger’s efforts to rehabilitate core alliances nonetheless proved more durable than his initial efforts to stabilize the Cold War. Substituting a concept of “world order politics” for Cold War fixations, Carter set out to promote human rights and economic cooperation. He nonetheless ended up implementing the sharpest escalation in Cold War preparedness since Truman. Making effective foreign policy sometimes depends upon rethinking the concepts that guide it. Such concepts are, after all, derived from the past; they do not predict the future.

President Obama at West Point recently declared that “terrorism” is still “the most direct threat to America.” This has been the pattern of recent years; whether it is the pattern of years to come, only time will tell. New threats will also appear, as will new opportunities, but engaging them will depend upon perceiving them. Here, strategic concepts that prioritize particular kinds of challenges, such as terrorism, over other kinds of challenge, such as climate change, may be unhelpful. So too are the blanket prohibitions that axiomatic concepts often produce. Advancing US interests may very well depend upon mustering the flexibility to engage with terroristic groups, like the Taliban or Hamas, or with regimes, like Iran’s, that sponsor terrorism. Axiomatic approaches to foreign policy that reject all dialogue with terrorist organizations may narrow the field of vision. Americans, after all, did not go to China until Nixon did so.

If intellectual flexibility is a prerequisite for successful late presidential reinventions, political courage is another. While he believed that effective foreign policy depended upon domestic consensus, Kissinger strived throughout his career to insulate policy choice from the pressures of domestic politics. He persevered in defending Soviet-American détente not because it was popular but because he believed in it. Carter also put strategic purposes ahead of political expedience. Convinced that America’s dependence on foreign oil was a strategic liability, Carter decontrolled oil prices, allowing gasoline prices to rise sharply. The decision was unpopular, even mocked, but it paid strategic dividends in the mid-1980s, when falling world oil prices helped tip the Soviet Union into fiscal collapse. Obama, in contrast, appears readier to let opinion polls guide foreign policy. Withdrawing US forces from Iraq in 2011 and committing to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan during 2016 were both popular moves; their prudence remains less obvious. Still, the 22nd Amendment gives the President a real flexibility in foreign policy. Whether Obama bequeaths a strong foundation to his successor may depend on his willingness to embrace the political opportunity that he now inhabits for bold and decisive action.

Setbacks of the kind that the United States is experiencing in the present moment are not unprecedented. Americans in the 1970s fretted about the rise of Soviet power, and they recoiled as radical students stormed their embassy in Tehran. Yet policymakers devised ways out of the impasse, and they left the United States in a deceptively strong position at the decade’s end. Reinvention depended upon flexibility. Kissinger, Carter, and others understood that the United States, while the world’s leading superpower, was more the captive of its circumstances than the master of them. They were undogmatic, insofar as they turned to opportunities that had not been their priorities at the outset. They operated in the world as they found it and did not fixate upon the world as it might be. They scored singles and doubles, but they also hit the occasional home run. This is a standard that Obama has evoked; with luck, it will be a standard that he can fulfill, if he can muster the political courage to defy adverse politics and embrace the opportunities that the last 30 months of his presidency will present.

Daniel J. Sargent is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s and the co-editor of The Shock of the Global: The International History of the 1970s.

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5. Best Selling Middle Grade Books | May 2014

Who is Barack Obama? from the popular Who Was …? series tops The Children’s Book Review’s best selling middle grade books this month. We've also added The Finisher by David Baldacci to our hand selected titles from the nationwide best selling middle grade books, as listed by The New York Times, that also features books by super-talents Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Applegate and R.J. Palacio.

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6. 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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7. 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.

continued…

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8. 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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9. 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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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/

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11. 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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12. 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.

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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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.
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    17. 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:

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    18. 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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    19. 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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    20. 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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    21. 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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    22. 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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    23. 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.


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    24. 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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    25. 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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