Power in Words
The Stories behind Barack Obama's Speeches, from the State House to the White House
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Whatever his ratings, Obama remains personally popular, widely acknowledged for his soaring oratory. His words were one of the lasting legacies of his presidential campaign and are proving to be among his most effective governing weapons.
In Power in Words, distinguished historian and civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry and former presidential speechwriter Josh Gottheimer introduce Obama’s most memorable speeches, from his October 2002 speech against the war in Iraq and his November 2008 election-night victory speech to “A More Perfect Union,” his March 2008 response to the Reverend Wright controversy, and lesser-known but revealing speeches, such as one given in Nairobi, Kenya, in August 2006.
For each speech, Berry and Gottheimer add a rich introduction that includes political analysis, provides insight and historical context, and features commentary straight from the speechwriters themselves—including Jon Favreau, Obama’s chief speechwriter, and several other Obama campaign writers. Compelling and enduring, Power in Words delivers the behind-the-scenes account of Obama’s rhetorical legacy and is a collection to relish for years to come.
Mary Frances Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. The author of nine books and recipient of over thirty honorary degrees, she has been chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, is a regular contributor to Politico.com, and has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, Anderson Cooper 360, The Daily Show, Tavis Smiley, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Josh Gottheimer was presidential speechwriter and special assistant to Bill Clinton, and has written speeches for John Kerry, General Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, and other high-profile Democrats. He appears regularly on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN as a political analyst, edited Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches, and is a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ted Sorensen is former special counsel and adviser to President John F. Kennedy and a widely published author on the presidency and foreign affairs.
“Berry and Gottheimer bring their own depth of insight to an analysis of each of the speeches and the vision they embody. . . . A book to savor and return to for subsequent readings.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Considering the number of books written about President Obama, you would think we’ve heard enough. Not to say that I’m the decider of these things but my vote should count for something, and I think that Power in Words dissects the rhetoric of the president in unprecedented ways. A while back I began to see this movement the president is leading as a kind of cultural transformation, and in this book the stories behind the famous addresses come to life.”—Bill Cosby
“In the long sweep of history, readers will be able to refer to this work to better understand and appreciate the power of words of our forty-fourth president of the United States.”—Dana Perino, former White House press secretary
“It was the late Richard Neustadt who famously wrote that ‘presidential power is the power to persuade.’ This rich and thoughtful collection of the stories behind the speeches that launched Barack Obama to the national stage and eventually the presidency demonstrates how incredible this power can be when placed in the hands of a brilliant and gifted orator. Power in Words highlights President Obama’s ability—and the abilities of his talented speechwriters and advisers—to translate the unspoken desire of the American people for a leader with humility, intelligence, and understanding into a language that all Americans could connect with and believe in.”—John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and CEO of the Center for American Progress
“Words matter, especially in a time of crisis. Learn how Obama’s words got him elected, and why it matters to all of us, in this engaging look at his rise to the presidency.”—Eric Schmidt, chair/CEO of Google Inc.