Update: Obama Talks Back has received an NAACP Image Award nomination for literature. The winner will be announced live on TV from Hollywood February 1, 2013.
Book Review by Dennis Moore
December 17, 2012 (San Diego)--Gregory J. Reed, Esq., CEO and Founder of Keeper of the Word Foundation, has written a poignant and heartfelt book that resonates with me for a number of reasons: Obama Talks Back: Global Lessons – A Dialogue with America’s Young Leaders.
This historic collection of students’ letters accompanied with President Obama’s responses, speeches, public statements, and quotations during his campaign and his presidency is the most comprehensive collection of letters and responses ever assembled as a book for a sitting U.S. president. The several thousand letters received by the Keeper of the Word Foundation form an exclusive dialogue between our nation’s youth and a President of the United States of America. These letters are priceless, timeless, and powerful.
I have a kindred spirit with President Obama, as his home away from the White House is right down the street from the Church in Chicago that I and two of my children were baptized at, the Apostolic Church of God. President Obama gave that riveting and heartfelt Father’s Day speech at the church, where he had been a longtime friend of the pastor and the neighborhood; his speech has been viewed on YouTube video by millions around the world.
Mr. Reed is the award winning author of sixteen books. He is also a Wayne State University and Michigan State University alumni and has been an active practitioner in the legal profession for twenty plus years. His clients are preeminent in their fields; his professional and civic contributions carry national and international significance.
The foreword and epilogue of Obama Talks Back are written by William Alexander Haley, PhD. Mr. Haley is the son of the late Alex Haley, Pulitzer Prize author for “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” He is the CEO of the Alex Haley Foundation.
Typical of the letter exchange between students and President Obama, is that of a David, a student at the Swift School in Chicago, who writes,
Dear President Obama,
Some changes in America that I would like to see would be gun violence, gangs, and Global Warming. One of the first changes in America that I would like to see is eliminating gun violence because many people die in the U.S. everyday from guns.
Secondly, global warming is affecting our climate, which brings the topic of pollution. Big companies dump waste into our lakes, which is our drinking water source for the city. Biohazards are effecting both humans and aquatic animals in the lakes. And I don’t want to get sick or worse die. To make this world a better place you should start new programs, which include a law that requires the use of a battery-backup car, hydrogen based cars, or filtered exhaust cars. This will both reduce the gasoline we use for our car and will reduce greenhouse gases produced by cars. I want my future to be happy and I don’t want to have colder winters and hotter summers every year.
I want you to think these ideas over, and I know that they are best for us the children. Gangs and guns hurt people like me, and pollution will kill us all in the end if it isn’t slowed down. I will try to help my future all I can, and I hope you do all you can to save the earth . President Obama responded to David’s letter by stating;
Your letter raises two separate concerns; violence in our nation and our environmental problems, but both are connected to one subject, and that is the economy. Yes, we need more cops on the streets. Yes, we need fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Yes, we need more outstanding teachers in the classroom. Yes, we need more opportunities to reduce crime so that many of our young people will not resort to crime and violence. Those opportunities come from a stabilized economy. This new economy must consider the new possibilities of a greener economy that reduces our pollution levels.
We can’t simply turn to the strategies of the past.
We are living through an age of fundamental economic transformation. We may not find a cure-all plan, but yes we can, and yes we will address the gun violence and threat of global warming.
The fact that this man, this President, would take time out of his busy schedule to respond to David and so many other young students who had written to him says a lot about his concern and commitment to the future of young people.
Chapters in Obama Talks Back: Global Lessons – A Dialogue with America’s Young Leaders include “Message to Young People”, “The Letters: What I Want for You and Every Child”, “Obama Talks Back On: Education/Digital Currency, Courage and Hope, War-Crime-Non-Violence & Justice, The Economy, Social Concern-Activism-Family-Parenting”, “Obama Talks to American Students”, “Spiritual Journal to the White House,” “President Obama’s Most Notable Speeches”.
In some of President Barack Obama’s remarks, he talks of global lessons and universal lessons of change taught to him by his mother and discoveries from prior leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Franklin Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. He speaks as to how these lessons can transform the lives of our youth by adopting the values of perseverance, confidence, purpose, sacrifice, patience, unity, integrity, courage, dignity, selflessness, and commitment.
This is a profound book that provides a rare glimpse into the private letters sent to the President and his accompanying remarks to young people, a book that I highly recommend that every home, organization, library, university, bookstore and college have for the many upcoming generations of young readers to read. It is an eye opener and an essential piece of reading for both America’s families and America’s leaders.
Dennis Moore is a writer and book reviewer with the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego. He is the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago.” Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.