Barack Obama

Writer-in-chief, cont’d

SOTU draft crop large

The White House has posted this photo of the president’s marked-up draft of the State of the Union address, reinforcing Obama’s reputation as a gifted, meticulous, hands-on writer. I wonder: if we were to rank the greatest writer-presidents, surely Lincoln and Jefferson would take the top two places, but who would beat Obama for third place? Theodore Roosevelt and Kennedy would have their supporters, I guess, but I don’t think either beats Obama for the bronze medal. Any other contenders?

An enormous, legible version of this image is here. (Via James Fallows.) See also the similar image posted by the White House three years ago.

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Obama offstage

“As the First Cameraman for the United States of America, Arun Chaudhary filmed President Barack Obama all over the world. Luckily he captured these backstage moments for your viewing pleasure.” (via)

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Today’s paper

Boston Globe after Obama's re-election

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Graying Obama


New Bloomberg Businessweek cover, out today, imagines Obama’s appearance in 2016.

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Photo of the Day

Teenage Obama 2

Teenage Obama 1

Obama as a teenager (via)

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A note from Barack Obama

Canadian author Yann Martel received this note from President Obama, out of the blue, about his novel Life of Pi. (Full story here. Larger image here. Via.) Canada’s own prime minister, on the other hand, “sounds and governs like one who cares little for the arts,” Martel writes, speculating that the prime minister may feel he is too busy.

To read a book, one must be still. To watch a concert, a play, a movie, to look at a painting, one must be still. Religion, too, makes use of stillness, notably with prayer and meditation. Just gazing upon a still lake, upon a quiet winter scene — doesn’t that lull us into contemplation? Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?” Then we become busy and the stillness vanishes, yet we hardly notice because we fall so easily for the delusion of busyness, whereby what keeps us busy must be important, and the busier we are with it, the more important it must be. And so we work, work, work, rush, rush, rush. On occasion we say to ourselves, panting, “Gosh, life is racing by.” But that’s not it at all, it’s the contrary: life is still. It is we who are racing by.

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The Writer-in-Chief

Obama draft

I love the image of President Obama and his speechwriter Jon Favreau that made the rounds of the web yesterday. Robert Draper had an interesting profile of Obama as writer in GQ. The piece includes this quote from Jerry Kellman, who hired the 24-year-old Obama as a community organizer in Chicago in 1985:

When he came to Chicago, he had two dreams. The one was working for social change. The other was that he would write fiction. His aspiration was to write a novel. We talked about it at great length.

In the same article Scott Turow adds,

This is my gloss, but it does make me wonder what would’ve happened had [then incumbent state senator] Alice Palmer decided not to give up that seat. For even after he was elected and I would talk to him when he was in Springfield, he still had some doubts about whether being an elected official was what he wanted to do. We would talk about books. He would ask me what I was writing. And my gut was that it was more than a sort of generalized yearning — that he’d been thinking for some time since [publishing Dreams from My Father] about what he would like to write, and even if it was no more than making a few notes, he was actively pursuing something. … A writer’s life still beckoned to him.

An enormous, clearly legible version of the photo above is here. (Via James Fallows.)

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