My Hopey, Changey
White House Years
by David Litt
(A SPEECHWRITER'S MEMOIR)
This is a hopey, changey kind of book. It comes out just when we need the smiles, the chuckles, and yes, the hope.
David Litt began campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008. From there he moved on to speechwriting for the President. He began at the bottom, and takes us along on his wild, bumpy, sometimes scary, sometimes hilarious ride. It is partly about his growing up, partly about the maturing of Obama's presidency, and partly about the transformation of America.
The personal anecdotes are hysterically funny; he is brutally honest about the workings of the West Wing and also about himself. He doesn't let himself get too carried away with his own importance, but he doesn't mind telling us when he feels damn good about his accomplishments. His periodic meetings with President Obama are priceless, and tell us as much about the President as about Litt.
It turns out that it is a wonderful review of Obama's eight years, just as we are sometimes feeling as if they didn't actually happen. He takes us from the campaigns to the fights over Obamacare and the budget. We witness presidential approval ratings sink as he struggles to first work with and then hold back a Congress determined to do damage to his promises to the American people, and then we watch them skyrocket when, in 2015, he decides it is time to do his work with or without Congress.
We also get behind the scenes of the amazing Correspondents' Dinner speeches, and the moods of the writers and the President as they are developed, including the critical edit the day before the Bin Laden raid. And the "bucket" list. And of course, the development of the skit with "Luther, Obama's Anger Translator."
And then there was that week in June of 2015, with two great Supreme Court victories and the horrific shooting at the Mother Emanuel Church here in Charleston. And Barack Obama gave a moving and eloquent speech, ending with him singing Amazing Grace.
Litt says, "In less than two days, Barack Obama had secured his place in history.... I now lived in a country where health care was a right and not a privilege; where you could marry who you loved; where a black president could go to the heart of the old Confederacy and take all of us, every color and creed, to church."
And around about that time in Litt's book, he brought me back around from despair to hope. Because, as we saw in last week's election, when women, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslim and transgender Americans ran for office against hate and bigotry and won, Obama's legacy can't be erased. The American people have come together to prove that we stand for liberty and justice. We will continue to fight for the gun legislation that Obama was unable to see in his terms in office, and for the women and minorities that are being victimized by the current administration.
Or, as POTUS says, "We haven't won every battle. We've still got a lot more work to do. But when the cynics told us we couldn't change our country for the better, they were wrong."
Thanks, David Litt, for reminding us of that.