One of the most important politics books of the year, To Obama is a record of a time when politics intersected with empathy.
Every day, President Obama received ten thousand letters from ordinary American citizens. Every night, he read ten of them before going to bed. In To Obama, Jeanne Marie Laskas interviews President Obama, the letter-writers themselves and the White House staff in the Office of Presidential Correspondence who were witness to the millions of pleas, rants, thank-yous and apologies that landed in the mailroom during the Obama years. There is Peggy, a patriotic grandmother who thinks the President is trying to lead the country into socialism and recommends that he read the Constitution; Bill, a lifelong Republican whose attitude towards immigration reform was transformed when he met a boy who escaped MS-13 gang leaders in El Salvador; Jordan, a seven-year-old about to be adopted, who wants to thank the President for keeping him safe; James, who on the morning after the 2016 election tells the President to start packing; and Dawn, who writes to say that he made it possible for a very jaded generation to begin to hope and believe in the good.
They wrote to Obama out of gratitude and desperation, in their darkest times of need, with anger, fear and respect. To Obama is an intimate look at one man's relationship with the American people, and at how this extraordinary dialogue shaped an era-defining presidency.
A moving and inevitably nostalgic or even elegiac read, redolent of the human grace and statesmanship of the Obama presidency, qualities so brutally absent in the current administration. The tone and courtesy of that stands as a beacon of humble leadership, as does the dedication that Obama inspired in the mail-room team that made the correspondence possible. A beautifully researched and written book (Observer)
To Obama gives us a glimpse of a secret and incredibly sweet world within his White House, and paints a portrait of a man deeply concerned with his citizens' problems, struggling to do the right thing. [A] startling, delicate and immensely readable story ... Another poignant reminder of what once was (Telegraph)
Reminiscent of Tom Wolfe at his best . It may be trite to say that To Obama is itself a love letter, but that's how it reads: like a letter to someone long lost. It is steeped in a powerful yearning for a period in time that slips further from us with every passing day. How did we fall so far? (New Statesman)
Full of lovely details ... The insight into America provided by the letters cleverly selected by Laskas is fascinating (Literary Review)
These stories, when you read them all together, tell the American story. It's inspirational, it's frustrating, it's angry, it's grateful, it's resilient (Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama)
Alternately heart-breaking and hopeful, angry and questioning - the empathetic, often poetic, polar opposite of the Trump twitter feed (Vogue)
The heartbreaking, hope-inducing letters tell the story of a nation (Elle)