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To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope

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Every day, President Obama received ten thousand letters from constituents. Every night, he read ten of them before going to bed. This is the story of the profound ways in which they shaped his presidency. Every evening for 8 years, at his request, President Obama received a binder containing ten handpicked letters from ordinary American citizens -- the unfiltered voice of Every day, President Obama received ten thousand letters from constituents. Every night, he read ten of them before going to bed. This is the story of the profound ways in which they shaped his presidency. Every evening for 8 years, at his request, President Obama received a binder containing ten handpicked letters from ordinary American citizens -- the unfiltered voice of a nation -- from his Office of Presidential Correspondence. He was the first to President to save constituent mail, and this is the story of how those letters affected not only the President and his policies, but also the deeply committed people who were tasked with opening the millions of pleas, rants, thank yous, and apologies that landed in the White House mailroom. Based on the popular New York Times article, "To Obama," Laskas now interviews the letter writers themselves and the White House staff who sifted through the powerful, moving, and incredibly intimate narrative of America during the Obama years emerges: There is Kelli, who saw her grandfathers finally marry - legally -- after 35 years together; Bill, a lifelong Republican whose attitude toward immigration reform was transformed when he met a boy escaping M-16 gang leaders in El Salvador; Heba, a Syrian refugee who wants to forget the day the tanks rolled into her village; Marjorie, who grappled with disturbing feelings of racial bias lurking within her during the George Zimmerman trial; and Vicki, whose family was torn apart by those who voted for Trump and those who did not. They wrote to Obama out of gratitude and desperation, in their darkest times of need, in search of connection. They wrote with anger and respect. And together, this chorus of voices achieves a kind of beautiful harmony: here is a diary of a nation. To Obama is an intimate look at one man's relationship to the American people, and the the intersection of politics and empathy in the White House.


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Every day, President Obama received ten thousand letters from constituents. Every night, he read ten of them before going to bed. This is the story of the profound ways in which they shaped his presidency. Every evening for 8 years, at his request, President Obama received a binder containing ten handpicked letters from ordinary American citizens -- the unfiltered voice of Every day, President Obama received ten thousand letters from constituents. Every night, he read ten of them before going to bed. This is the story of the profound ways in which they shaped his presidency. Every evening for 8 years, at his request, President Obama received a binder containing ten handpicked letters from ordinary American citizens -- the unfiltered voice of a nation -- from his Office of Presidential Correspondence. He was the first to President to save constituent mail, and this is the story of how those letters affected not only the President and his policies, but also the deeply committed people who were tasked with opening the millions of pleas, rants, thank yous, and apologies that landed in the White House mailroom. Based on the popular New York Times article, "To Obama," Laskas now interviews the letter writers themselves and the White House staff who sifted through the powerful, moving, and incredibly intimate narrative of America during the Obama years emerges: There is Kelli, who saw her grandfathers finally marry - legally -- after 35 years together; Bill, a lifelong Republican whose attitude toward immigration reform was transformed when he met a boy escaping M-16 gang leaders in El Salvador; Heba, a Syrian refugee who wants to forget the day the tanks rolled into her village; Marjorie, who grappled with disturbing feelings of racial bias lurking within her during the George Zimmerman trial; and Vicki, whose family was torn apart by those who voted for Trump and those who did not. They wrote to Obama out of gratitude and desperation, in their darkest times of need, in search of connection. They wrote with anger and respect. And together, this chorus of voices achieves a kind of beautiful harmony: here is a diary of a nation. To Obama is an intimate look at one man's relationship to the American people, and the the intersection of politics and empathy in the White House.

30 review for To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beatrice Masaluñga

    Thank you Penguin Random House for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. Every nation needs a leader who is genuine, compassionate and respectful like former president, Mr. Barrack Obama. This book contains selected letters from each citizens addressed to Mr. Obama during his term as President. Expressing their unfiltered emotions about the government and their everyday struggles. Empathizing with his fellow countrymen speaks a lot about his character. I have so much respect for Mr. Thank you Penguin Random House for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. Every nation needs a leader who is genuine, compassionate and respectful like former president, Mr. Barrack Obama. This book contains selected letters from each citizens addressed to Mr. Obama during his term as President. Expressing their unfiltered emotions about the government and their everyday struggles. Empathizing with his fellow countrymen speaks a lot about his character. I have so much respect for Mr. Obama. So as to former VP Mr. Joe Biden. As someone who rarely reads nonfiction, I am excited to read more of this book. Note: I've only read an exclusive preview of this book. My review and rating are subject to change once I've read the full length book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sonia

    Not only is this a book about the 10 letters (anger, hope, love, and joy, as promised) President Obama responded to each day, it's an in depth look into the lives of White House staff and the sense of community they felt in the mail room. It is very well written, and includes powerful letters and responses. I received a letter from the President in January 2017. I keep it framed, and I keep a copy at my desk at work. And when I read it, I hear it in the voice of a kind, empathetic leader who ins Not only is this a book about the 10 letters (anger, hope, love, and joy, as promised) President Obama responded to each day, it's an in depth look into the lives of White House staff and the sense of community they felt in the mail room. It is very well written, and includes powerful letters and responses. I received a letter from the President in January 2017. I keep it framed, and I keep a copy at my desk at work. And when I read it, I hear it in the voice of a kind, empathetic leader who inspired me to love my country again, and inspires me to continue doing meaningful work. Reading this gave me hope, left me with a heart filled with joy, and reminded me, once again, we are not so different.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eeva

    I have a huge problem with rating this book. On one hand, the letters and Obama's responses made me very emotional and made me tear up more times than I care to admit.. On the other hand though, Jeanne Marie Laskas can't write for shit. Her chapters that were written to give us a closer look at Office of Presidential Correspondence, the White House employees, people that wrote letters, people who responded to letter, and last but not least, President Obama, were written so horribly bad that it made I have a huge problem with rating this book. On one hand, the letters and Obama's responses made me very emotional and made me tear up more times than I care to admit.. On the other hand though, Jeanne Marie Laskas can't write for shit. Her chapters that were written to give us a closer look at Office of Presidential Correspondence, the White House employees, people that wrote letters, people who responded to letter, and last but not least, President Obama, were written so horribly bad that it made me cringe. The language was simplistic, which I suppose was meant to feel us closer to the subject and people we were reading about, but it sounded stupid and patronising. Every once in a while we stumbled upon lined that could have been taken straight from a really bad YA novel "She stood still for a moment, looked at me, I'd forgotten how big and round her eyes were, a person could climb inside those eyes" Really? I mean, really? Are we reading a story about Obama and people who wrote to him, who told him their stries, or are we reading a high school paranormal romance? This book would have been so much better whithout those lame interludes. Or if they were written by someone who can actually write.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stacee

    I loved the idea of this story and it didn’t disappoint. This book gives a behind the scenes on the people who helped with all of the letter writing, as well as Obama’s actual handwritten responses. The backstories were just as captivating as the actual letters and I especially appreciated the up to date snippets of each of the people who submitted letters that were shared in the book. Heartbreaking and hopeful, this book made me feel all the things.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    Oh my gosh. This book. This book is a masterpiece. This is not a book on politics; this is not even a book about President Obama. This is a book about real Americans, with real stories, who out of desperation just want to be heard. I found it so interesting to hear about the inter-workings of the mail rooms at the White House, and honestly had no idea I could even write to the President in today’s time. Mostly, I loved the letters. And the responses so beautifully written by the President. They Oh my gosh. This book. This book is a masterpiece. This is not a book on politics; this is not even a book about President Obama. This is a book about real Americans, with real stories, who out of desperation just want to be heard. I found it so interesting to hear about the inter-workings of the mail rooms at the White House, and honestly had no idea I could even write to the President in today’s time. Mostly, I loved the letters. And the responses so beautifully written by the President. They humbled me to my core. I laughed out loud while reading this book and I legit wept. I closed this book with tears running down my face and felt inspired and grateful to be an American and so thankful for people braver than I’ll ever be using their voices to make the world a better place. Regardless of your political view or thoughts on the Obama administration, you will be a better person for reading this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Devin

    To say I needed this book right now is an understatement. It’s one of those books I wish everyone would read. A strong 5 out of 5 stars. I am thankful to Jeanne Marie Lasksas for writing the book, to the people who comprised Obama’s OPC (Office of Presidential Correspondence) and to President Obama for being the type of man who wants to read 10LADs (10 letters a day) from his constituents and who will respond, sometimes in his own handwriting. I am also grateful there were other people in the Wh To say I needed this book right now is an understatement. It’s one of those books I wish everyone would read. A strong 5 out of 5 stars. I am thankful to Jeanne Marie Lasksas for writing the book, to the people who comprised Obama’s OPC (Office of Presidential Correspondence) and to President Obama for being the type of man who wants to read 10LADs (10 letters a day) from his constituents and who will respond, sometimes in his own handwriting. I am also grateful there were other people in the White House and throughout Washington DC who were Friends of the Mail. The group started small with Fiona, the head of the OPC, nervous to “spam” too many people with letters written to the President. But as more and more people saw the importance of these letters, of somehow connecting to people, the Friends of the Mail subscription list grew larger. The book is set up with samples of letters based on specific years, some responses, and then the stories about the people who wrote the letters. President Obama, “I learned in the process that if you listen hard enough, everybody’s got a sacred story. An organizing story. Of who they are and what their place in the world is. And they’re willing to share it with you if they feel as if you actually care about it. And that ends up being the glue around which relationships are formed, and trust is formed, and communities are formed. And ultimately - my theory was, at least - that’s the glue around which democracies work.”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cortney

    If you wrote a letter to the President of the United States what would it be about? Immigration...the abuse you suffered at the hands of your foster parents ...being elected Student Council President...what it feels like to lose everything you’ve worked so hard for...civil rights...bullies punching you in the face...overcoming an addiction...when your girlfriend died because she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor...what it felt like to finally be able to legally marry the love of your life...to If you wrote a letter to the President of the United States what would it be about? Immigration...the abuse you suffered at the hands of your foster parents ...being elected Student Council President...what it feels like to lose everything you’ve worked so hard for...civil rights...bullies punching you in the face...overcoming an addiction...when your girlfriend died because she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor...what it felt like to finally be able to legally marry the love of your life...to say good riddance...to say a prayer...to lay blame...or to just say Thank You. This is a sample of the letters sent to President Obama (and his response to some of them) during his 8 years in the White House. I was humbled by these people and the level of care and love that went into the writing and handling of these letters.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bookslut

    This was fabulous, albeit flawed. I even recommended it to my mom, who hates Obama. There is so much to gain here, regardless of your political sensibilities. It turns out that the things people choose to write to the President are really, deeply important, and generalizable to everyone. I don't have a lot of veterans in my life, I've never personally known anyone that committed suicide, and do not have one close relationship with a person who has been incarcerated long term, but I felt moved an This was fabulous, albeit flawed. I even recommended it to my mom, who hates Obama. There is so much to gain here, regardless of your political sensibilities. It turns out that the things people choose to write to the President are really, deeply important, and generalizable to everyone. I don't have a lot of veterans in my life, I've never personally known anyone that committed suicide, and do not have one close relationship with a person who has been incarcerated long term, but I felt moved and very connected to the people that wrote letters about them. That is the crown jewel of this book, is the letters, and also where the author's genius lies. She picked such brilliant samples to include. Also, the whole concept for the book was phenomenal, in my opinion. Here are all the parts I loved: the letters selected, the interviews with many letter writers, the interviews with Obama, the workings of the mailroom at the White House, the coverage of the transition to a new administration, and the epilogue containing a fun fact or update on every person in the book. And the cover. What I did not love, necessarily, was the author. Well, I think her gift for compiling and conceptualizing was superb, but I didn't go in big for her writing. It was almost like her book was good in spite of her writing. The interview chapters, meant (I think) to capture the voice of the interviewees, often came across as mocking, or creating caricatures of Simple Folk. She even takes a shot at President Obama for the slow and plodding way he talks. As an aside, it was also kind of a bummer to read President Obama's reply letters. They sounded less personal, less thoughtful, and more political than I hoped. I think it is admirable and incredible that he wrote back at all, to any of these people, and interceded for many more, but I hoped to feel more of the magic I always experience listening to his speeches when I read his letters, and that did not happen. One other small thing, perhaps unavoidable, was that a lot of the book was hard to read. Visually, I mean. They included the letters in their original form, which was really cool, but sometimes very difficult to make out. Good-with-the-bad type thing. A final note I'd like to include: I read this book with what, I now realize, had become a cynical outlook. That things are not only trending in a negative direction, but also that they cannot/will not ever improve, that the future is grim, etc. And then they interview President Obama at the end of the book, and he is still so positive and so hopeful, despite eight very contentious years in office and seeing much of the worst the world has to offer. There are so many cares hanging on the President's shoulders. I experienced a mini-paradigm shift, because if he can believe in the potential for America and be optimistic with all of his life experience, what right do I have not to? It renewed, quite simply, my hope for the future. It was a quietly powerful thing to stumble across in a book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    Wow!!!!!! What a great book! Absolutely loved every single letter, every single Obama's answering letter and of course a group of people who were reading and sorting out the mail! Obama was a very special man and a very special president!!! Outstanding, interesting, open and honest! What a beauty! Wow!!!!!! What a great book! Absolutely loved every single letter, every single Obama's answering letter and of course a group of people who were reading and sorting out the mail! Obama was a very special man and a very special president!!! Outstanding, interesting, open and honest! What a beauty!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    It's so hard to believe that we went from this amazing man as President to what we have now. This book contained letters written to President Obama and his replies. So good, uplifting, and now sad that he is no longer in office. It's so hard to believe that we went from this amazing man as President to what we have now. This book contained letters written to President Obama and his replies. So good, uplifting, and now sad that he is no longer in office.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    President Obama read a representative selection of 10 letters per day (out of the perhaps 40,000 received at the White House daily) and answered many of them by hand. Ordinary Americans shared their struggles with him: veterans, people with disabilities or diseases that limited their ability to work, college kids trying to pay their own way. Some told heartwarming stories of accomplishment against the odds; others admitted their desperation and made pleas for help; plenty expressed frustration w President Obama read a representative selection of 10 letters per day (out of the perhaps 40,000 received at the White House daily) and answered many of them by hand. Ordinary Americans shared their struggles with him: veterans, people with disabilities or diseases that limited their ability to work, college kids trying to pay their own way. Some told heartwarming stories of accomplishment against the odds; others admitted their desperation and made pleas for help; plenty expressed frustration with the administration or disapproval of specific policies. In these cases, Obama’s responses were courteous but to the point, politely disagreeing and setting the writers straight if they had misinterpreted his intentions. The letter idea was down to Pete Rouse, one of Obama’s right-hand men. Rouse told Laskas, “My view has always been that the quality of the communication says something about how the elected official views his or her role in terms of serving the public, regardless of party affiliation or political philosophy.” Obama added, “Ten a day is what I figured I could do. It was a small gesture, I thought, at least to resist the bubble. It was a way for me to, every day, remember that what I was doing was not about me. It wasn’t about the Washington calculus. It wasn’t about the political scoreboard. It was about the people who were out there living their lives who were either looking for some help or angry about how I was screwing something up.” I was interested enough to skim through the facsimile letters and read most of Obama’s replies, but not to read Laskas’s connective narrative. Mostly I kept thinking, what I wouldn’t give to have a president so intelligent, engaged and respectful again!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The absolute best book I’ve read in a long time. I laughed, I sobbed, I learned so much about America—her citizens, their stories and what inspires it compels a person to write to the president. I learned a lot about Mr Obama, and how the mail he received directly impacted policies. I learned about the unsung heroes who read thousands of letters every day, sitting in the midst of painful stories, replying and giving people the knowledge that someone was listening. This book was incredible and on The absolute best book I’ve read in a long time. I laughed, I sobbed, I learned so much about America—her citizens, their stories and what inspires it compels a person to write to the president. I learned a lot about Mr Obama, and how the mail he received directly impacted policies. I learned about the unsung heroes who read thousands of letters every day, sitting in the midst of painful stories, replying and giving people the knowledge that someone was listening. This book was incredible and one I think everyone, whether you liked Obama as a president or not, should read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    Thank you Tara Taunt for gifting me this book for Christmas! This is a fascinating piece of history, government, Obama biography and study of the humanity. Many of the letters are very difficult to read. The business of receiving, filtering for reply and selecting for the President and for the responses was a fascinating insight to governance that cares, governance that was a diligent effort to govern with fairness, an open approach, and intelligence. Barack Obama will go down as one of our grea Thank you Tara Taunt for gifting me this book for Christmas! This is a fascinating piece of history, government, Obama biography and study of the humanity. Many of the letters are very difficult to read. The business of receiving, filtering for reply and selecting for the President and for the responses was a fascinating insight to governance that cares, governance that was a diligent effort to govern with fairness, an open approach, and intelligence. Barack Obama will go down as one of our greatest but the people he engaged for his journey through his direct service to US are a big part of his magic, his mission, his legacy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    bianca

    I bought this book for a friend’s birthday and recently borrowed it from the library to read it myself. The letters & the last chapter with Obama are the most interesting, compelling parts of the books. I was moved throughout by how tough people’s circumstances were/are and kept wondering what compelled them to write to the President of all people. You can feel the desperation of the financial and housing crisis in many letters in a way that really makes you stop and think. This book just made me I bought this book for a friend’s birthday and recently borrowed it from the library to read it myself. The letters & the last chapter with Obama are the most interesting, compelling parts of the books. I was moved throughout by how tough people’s circumstances were/are and kept wondering what compelled them to write to the President of all people. You can feel the desperation of the financial and housing crisis in many letters in a way that really makes you stop and think. This book just made me think a lot. I thought a lot about the fact that I would never in a million years write to 45. I thought (and really appreciated) a lot about how Obama’s 10 letters a day kept him tied to the populace, and that the folks in the letter office didn’t center themselves of the President in their jobs. I thought about how young the administration was and how much faith the President put in young folks to just get the job done. I’d recommend this book anyone who is very tired of politics and wants to focus on people. I’d recommend to anyone who writes letters themselves/has a pen-pal of sorts. I wish there were more letters about hardship and a few more letters with solid criticism of the president. There are very few letters on foreign policy — I really would have liked if the author had included more of those.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Europaea

    I needed this. America- we NEED THIS. To Obama is a series of letters that Laskas picked to represent the social and political challenges Obama dealt with during his eight year term as POTUS. The letters come from a diverse representation of constitutes and range in tone from love, anger, grief, etc., for readers to really understand the depth and scope of issues that Obama handled with compassion, dignity, and intellect as sitting President. Laskas has a soft, yet analytical tone in her narrative I needed this. America- we NEED THIS. To Obama is a series of letters that Laskas picked to represent the social and political challenges Obama dealt with during his eight year term as POTUS. The letters come from a diverse representation of constitutes and range in tone from love, anger, grief, etc., for readers to really understand the depth and scope of issues that Obama handled with compassion, dignity, and intellect as sitting President. Laskas has a soft, yet analytical tone in her narrative as she describes meeting with the individuals that wrote each letter and what compelled them to share their personal stories and struggles with Obama. For me, over the last two years so much of my days are spent just trying to survive, to fight, stand up against the injustice the Trump Administration is working overtime to deal out. Laskas new release is a reminder to me not to burn out and become compliant, that what I'm fighting for matters and it begins by telling our stories

  16. 4 out of 5

    Preeti De Sarkar

    It took me some time to read the entire book as this was an exceptional read and I wanted to read every word of every letter in this book and soak it all in. I've always, always admired Obama and this book has only built up my respect for him. This book is also written in such a way that I had to stop myself deliberately to turn the pages and do some chores. His personality, as you realise, takes turn to be confident and tender, fierce and subdued, independent and reliant - could be all at once or It took me some time to read the entire book as this was an exceptional read and I wanted to read every word of every letter in this book and soak it all in. I've always, always admired Obama and this book has only built up my respect for him. This book is also written in such a way that I had to stop myself deliberately to turn the pages and do some chores. His personality, as you realise, takes turn to be confident and tender, fierce and subdued, independent and reliant - could be all at once or exclusive in instances - but best suited to the situations. What stands out in this book of hundreds of letters, is the collective fellowship of the members of the White House who dealt regularly with these extraordinary letters. Their dedication, hardwork and love for their fellow citizens cannot be overlooked. It's an amazing read, giving a glimpse of what it was to be POTUS and the fellow members working in the White House.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Stancampiano

    This book made me realize just how much I miss a measured, thoughtful, well spoken leader who governed for all and wanted to hear from those who supported and were very critical of his work. I spent a lot of time considering if I would feel the same if this book was about an elected official with different political leanings than I have, and the answer is yes. I would be endeared to anyone who gave this much effort to knowing their constituency and their individual stories. It highlights the way This book made me realize just how much I miss a measured, thoughtful, well spoken leader who governed for all and wanted to hear from those who supported and were very critical of his work. I spent a lot of time considering if I would feel the same if this book was about an elected official with different political leanings than I have, and the answer is yes. I would be endeared to anyone who gave this much effort to knowing their constituency and their individual stories. It highlights the ways policy and systems effect individuals. Hearing individuals' stories reminded me of the America I am, and want to be, a part of. This was an easy, heart-warming read that I recommend to anyone, regardless of how they vote.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Did you know that President Obama requested to read 10 letters a day while in office? Imagine how many letters he received, and the amount of thought and effort that went into taking care of them all. Whittling them down and then picking the final 10 each day seems to me a Herculean task. In this book, Laskas goes behind the scenes of this impressive operation. She also shares samples of letters that were sent, along with Obama's responses. Needless to say, this presidential tradition was elevat Did you know that President Obama requested to read 10 letters a day while in office? Imagine how many letters he received, and the amount of thought and effort that went into taking care of them all. Whittling them down and then picking the final 10 each day seems to me a Herculean task. In this book, Laskas goes behind the scenes of this impressive operation. She also shares samples of letters that were sent, along with Obama's responses. Needless to say, this presidential tradition was elevated with Obama and doesn't exist with Trump. That says it all right there.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    During his administration President Obama received thousands of emails and letters daily. His office of correspondence was charged with methodically sorting through this mountain of correspondence and selecting ten letters for him to read each evening. He responded to many of them. The book is interesting and inspiring. I read it while also listening to Becoming via Audible, and enjoyed a happy respite from our current state of affairs.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    This took me a little longer than I expected to finish, but it was so well done. I learned a ton and I find myself appreciating Obama more and more after learning more about him. This book is going to stick with me and it emphasized (to me) the importance of letter writing, empathy, the importance of acknowledging differing opinions and the list goes on.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pavitra (For The Love of Fictional Worlds)

    Also Posted on For The Love of Fictional Worlds Disclaimer: An ARC was provided via Bloomsbury India in exchanage for an honest review. The Thoughts, opinions & feelings expressed in the review are therefore, my own. I rarely read non fiction books – but when Bloomsbury introduced this book about Letters written to Mr. Barack Obama during his two terms of Presidency.   Spanning a decade, it was eye opening and definitely nostalgic to see Public’s reaction to a President they didn’t expect Also Posted on For The Love of Fictional Worlds Disclaimer: An ARC was provided via Bloomsbury India in exchanage for an honest review. The Thoughts, opinions & feelings expressed in the review are therefore, my own. I rarely read non fiction books – but when Bloomsbury introduced this book about Letters written to Mr. Barack Obama during his two terms of Presidency.   Spanning a decade, it was eye opening and definitely nostalgic to see Public’s reaction to a President they didn’t expect to love to a President they came to respect and admire – but most of all miss when the current President was announced. This is a book about Mr. Obama’s policy to reply to 10 letters each day – a policy that I came to see not only affected his own policy and decisions but also see how this wonderful man loved his country and all the people in it. He treated even the worst of criticism with politeness and at times also use that criticism to find a way to better the condition for his country and its people. In the current tremulous times, when all you see is hate, fear and discrimination under a President of a country whose is slowly but surely destroying the world’s faith in humanity – this book is a ray of hope – hope that one day things might get better, that humanity will rise above hate, fear and discrimination.   From the time he took oath to lead the most powerful country in this world till the time he was faced with the decision to transfer those reigns to a man who is misogynistic, filled with hate for things he doesn’t understand, to protecting only what he understands, who holds hate and fear above the heads of everyone else – this man handled every decision with poise and grace that makes me, a non – American, that he was back in the office.   I have laughed, cried and sympathized with each of the letters, for their problems are what each one of us face in our own country – To Obama is a book I would recommend to any and all, for it is a look at an administration that was kind, loyal and definitely more humane than the current administration.   For more reviews visit For The Love of Fictional Worlds :) Do come join us at For The Fictional Worlds Facebook Page | Twitter | Instagram  | Goodreads  | Amazon |

  22. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    Reveals just how much Obama wanted to stay connected with ALL Americans while he was in office. And how his empathy was both a blessing and a curse as he tried to govern during such challenging circumstances.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    The thesis of “To Obama” is that over his 8 year term, president Obama would read 10 letters from ordinary Americans every night, responding to some personally, others… I had a really difficult time with how to write this review. At times I really hated this book. I hated first and foremost that so many of the responses people received from president Obama were not from him at all. Lengthy passages in the book describe in great detail how the White House mailroom worked: “Each week a group wou The thesis of “To Obama” is that over his 8 year term, president Obama would read 10 letters from ordinary Americans every night, responding to some personally, others… I had a really difficult time with how to write this review. At times I really hated this book. I hated first and foremost that so many of the responses people received from president Obama were not from him at all. Lengthy passages in the book describe in great detail how the White House mailroom worked: “Each week a group would comb through and revise the letters, while another, the ‘conditional language tech team’ constantly tweaked algorithms they had designed to allow for personal touches. So, for example, a teacher writing about immigration reform would get the immigration letter, with an added thank-you for his or her service to students; a recent retiree writing about climate change would get the climate change letter and a ‘best wishes on your retirement’ The algorithms allowed for hundreds of combinations.” “Fiona was at the helm, maintaining quality control and constantly singing her song: This matters. She tracked reader responses to the form letters, organized those into ‘smile’ and ‘frown’ files so the team could gauge its own success rate. So if someone writes, ‘Thank you for the acknowledgment of the death of my mother; your letter really meant a lot’ that goes into the smile file, she told me. Then another person may write to say, ‘Your letter about Syria didn’t answer my concern.’ That’s a frown. Nobody wanted a frown. Everybody wanted a smile. Everything needed to be perfect.” “I remember Yena telling me that one of the reasons she and other people in OPC didn’t like talking about their work to outsiders was because they felt a responsibility to preserve the illusion. Like the magician’s pledge ‘thou shalt not reveal the tricks of the trade’. Your silence was your gift.” “Algorithms”, “smiles and frowns”, giving the illusion that the president was listening to them, I found this very disturbing. That they were probably for the most part decent people (something that I believe president Obama is as well) I didn’t doubt. I don’t believe any deliberate deception or malice was at work here. But I grew increasingly concerned that these people had lost the ability to understand the difference between someone hearing what Americans who were clearly in distress financially and emotionally were saying and giving them the illusion that someone who for all intents and purposes, wasn’t actually listening. Could they see how these things were not at all the same? I increasingly lost confidence that they could. People writing to president Obama desperately wanted him to respond in some small way to them. To acknowledge that they are important, that they matter. A form letter plugged into an algorithm by a 23 year old intern is despite that intern’s best intentions, not that. I also hated the writing. At times I just wished the author would get out of the way and let the stories of the people writing to the president shine through. Stories of sons and daughters with mental illness. People suffering from unemployment, health emergencies, discrimination and despair. Also wonderful and uplifting stories of people who persevered and wanted to thank the president in some way for something he had done (to be fair, her profiles of the letter writers are more often than not well written and compelling). Instead, she spends an inordinate amount of time profiling the people in the mail room that feel excessively cliquey, with long descriptions of them that could be culled from the pages of a fashion magazine: “She had the clean, unadorned look of an adolescent: a neat, short bob; a buttoned-up top with pearls. She was twenty-three.” There are descriptions like this for practically everyone she meets. Mostly young, mostly people who come from wealth or influence of some kind (we are told that the head of the mail room, Fiona, attended boarding schools, attended Duke University, spent summers with her family traveling to over 20 countries. None of this disqualifies her from understanding ordinary Americans who only dream of such a life but at the same time one can understand why she would see an algorithm as an appropriate way to respond to people in distress who she may have difficulty otherwise relating to). I should also add there there is a chapter here that really disturbed me. It dealt with a father that had written an angry letter to Obama about the death of his daughter in the World Trade Center on September 11th. The author learns during the course of her interview with him that he had originally written a letter to the Navy and received a response from a lieutenant with a picture of someone writing his daughter’s name on a bomb. A bomb that a month later would be dropped on Afghanistan: “He wrote so many letters. The letter to the navy was the first one, definitely among the first. This was, gosh, within days. He was angry and he wanted somebody to do something immediately to get the people who had done this. So he googled, you know, navy. He picked a ship that was deployed in the Far East. He picked the USS Carl Vinson, and he found an email address, and he wrote about Colleen. Within weeks he heard back. Who expects to hear back? The email was from a lieutenant who talked about not forgetting the victims, and he included an attachment. Tom opened the attachment, and it was a photo of a guy in a flight suit leaning over a bomb. ‘LASER’ it said on the bomb. The guy had a pen, and he was writing something on the nose. ‘COLLEEN ANN MEE…’ He was working on the second E….The Carl Vinson had been headed east around the tip of India on September 11, 2001, when, in response to the attacks back home, it abruptly changed course and advanced toward the Arabian Sea. On October 11, 2001, it launched the bomb with Colleen’s name on it, one among hundreds the navy dropped in the first air strikes over Afghanistan targeting al-Qaeda and the Taliban in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.” That the author is silent on her opinion of this appalled me. Her silence for me seems to imply that the reader should solemnly bow their head at the swiftness of “justice”. Rather than feel justice was done, it sickened me that innocent people in a country with no connection to that horrible day would be killed in this young woman’s name. It seems to personify the exact opposite of what Obama publicly said about that war (that he continued our presence in Afghanistan as well as the drone strikes in Yemen killing countless innocent civilians perhaps proves me wrong). That the family felt unutterable grief at her death and would feel justice was being served I can almost understand. Anyone else who feels anything but deeply troubled by this however, I struggle to understand. What I loved however were the letters. I want to emphasize above all else that my disdain for this book does not detract from the respect and sympathy I feel for the people who took time out of their lives to write to a president they hoped would care. Were the letters allowed to just shine on their own without the author feeling like they needed something more does them a great disservice. The letters come from all over the country and from all walks of life. Some are complimentary, some are scathing, but all of them reflect the microcosm that America is. Messy at times. Ugly at other times to be sure. But its messiness is also part of its beauty. It also reflects an America in pain and desperately reaching out to someone, anyone to listen to them (think of how desperate someone must be that they are as a last resort writing the president of the United States). I at times also loved that Obama would respond by hand to those he felt needed his personal response. Many of his replies are heartfelt and clearly influenced him in his policies throughout his term. I do however have an issue that he would more often than not write “reply” on a letter with a series of scribbles and notes for the staff member charged with responding in his voice. I’m realistic enough to know that the president does not have the time to respond to everyone and applaud that he took it upon himself to read these letters at all. I’m sure more than a few presidents before him didn’t take the time he did in reading or responding. However when someone writes you about a family member being killed by gang violence or your daughter committing suicide, you simply can’t have an algorithm crank out a response to them. On a human level it’s wrong. It’s wrong on the level of the letter writer thinking you took the time to respond personally to them when you didn’t and later talking about “preserving the illusion for them” as if you did them a service. Is no letter better than a fake, albeit an “Obama inspired”, fake letter? I don’t know. I just found it all very unseemly. Looking at the vast majority of 4 and 5 star reviews for this book, it seems perhaps that I am the only one who found this troubling. Perhaps I am being too harsh but style over substance and performance over action was a frequent criticism of the Obama administration. While I never totally agreed with that assessment (the president after all is as much a figurehead for the nation, as we can see from the massive volume of letters they receive, as much as a policy maker) this book certainly does little to refute that argument.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Donna Bijas

    4.5 stars. “Delaney, Carrigan and Bree on boys saying that girls can’t do what boys can do.” Obama wrote to them and said “let them know that their President said they better start recognizing that girls change the world every day.” This book is amazing, uplifting, upsetting, funny, sad but mostly thoughtful by a President trying to remain in touch with the people he represented. Angry letters, silly letters, people desperate for help, his office of presidential correspondence gave him a wide ar 4.5 stars. “Delaney, Carrigan and Bree on boys saying that girls can’t do what boys can do.” Obama wrote to them and said “let them know that their President said they better start recognizing that girls change the world every day.” This book is amazing, uplifting, upsetting, funny, sad but mostly thoughtful by a President trying to remain in touch with the people he represented. Angry letters, silly letters, people desperate for help, his office of presidential correspondence gave him a wide array of their thoughts over 8 years. He personally answered quite a few, some typed but many handwritten. He had empathy for them all. Loved it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Steve Bomgaars

    This is not your typical book on the Obama administration! Laskas focuses on the correspondence that came into the White House during the Obama presidency - the office and people who handled the mail and email - the back stories of some of the people who felt compelled to write to the POTUS about their fears, travails, successes, frustrations etc. But, what makes this so interesting is that President Obama tasked the office with the job of selecting 10 pieces of correspondence daily that he woul This is not your typical book on the Obama administration! Laskas focuses on the correspondence that came into the White House during the Obama presidency - the office and people who handled the mail and email - the back stories of some of the people who felt compelled to write to the POTUS about their fears, travails, successes, frustrations etc. But, what makes this so interesting is that President Obama tasked the office with the job of selecting 10 pieces of correspondence daily that he would personally respond to. His responses are, as you might imagine, well thought and heartfelt. The book gives the reader an interesting insight into how Obama kept in touch with what the American people were truly feeling while he was working within the bubble of the American presidency.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Abby Johnson

    Just so good if you miss Obama. His mail room was unique as they developed a system to catalog and reply to letters, selecting 10 letters a day for President Obama to read personally. Fascinating to read samples of the letters and learn about how they helped Obama’s administration keep in touch with the public they were serving.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Fritch

    Oh, I loved this book. That a president would take time out of his busy daily schedule to listen to and correspond with his constituents, even those who disagreed with him, just makes me admire Obama even more. The other powerful part of this book was getting to read the letters and be reminded of the real struggles that people from every part of the political spectrum are facing. In the divisive times we live in, it can be difficult to remember that there is a real person with real problems and Oh, I loved this book. That a president would take time out of his busy daily schedule to listen to and correspond with his constituents, even those who disagreed with him, just makes me admire Obama even more. The other powerful part of this book was getting to read the letters and be reminded of the real struggles that people from every part of the political spectrum are facing. In the divisive times we live in, it can be difficult to remember that there is a real person with real problems and feelings behind our political labels. This book was a refreshing reminder.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike McAdam

    A friend of mine highly recommended this book so I decided to read it and I am glad I did. It was very educational - I had no idea about what is done about the letters the president receives - and very entertaining. The letters run the gamut from hate to love to concern on a specific issue. I already had major respect for President Obama and this book strengthened and added to that. I recommend this book to everyone!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    The letters written to Obama and his responses represent a picture into the empathy of the man and his true legacy. The letters, and the stories behind them, evoke poignant feelings of inspiration and hope during our current time of turmoil and cynicism. This book is a reminder of what kind and compassionate leadership looked like and could hopefully be again.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter T

    I've never read a book like this. A great story of Barack Obama, those who wrote to him, and those that thoughtfully dealt with the thousands of letters each day. So many stories in the one book. A book providing insight into the history we are living. I've never read a book like this. A great story of Barack Obama, those who wrote to him, and those that thoughtfully dealt with the thousands of letters each day. So many stories in the one book. A book providing insight into the history we are living.

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