A NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2019 • AN NPR BEST BOOK OF 2019 • ONE OF TIME’S MUST-READ BOOKS OF 2019 • AN ECONOMIST BOOK OF THE YEAR • A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK OF 2019 • A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST BOOK OF 2019
“Her highly personal and reflective memoir . . . is a must-read for anyone who cares about our role in a changing world.”—President Barack Obama
An intimate, powerful, and galvanizing memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner, human rights advocate, and former UN Ambassador Samantha Power.
In her memoir, Power offers an urgent response to the question "What can one person do?" and a call for a clearer eye, a kinder heart, and a more open and civil hand in our politics and daily lives. The Education of an Idealist traces Power’s distinctly American journey from immigrant to war correspondent to presidential Cabinet official. In 2005, her critiques of US foreign policy caught the eye of newly elected senator Barack Obama, who invited her to work with him on Capitol Hill and then on his presidential campaign. After Obama was elected president, Power went from being an activist outsider to a government insider, navigating the halls of power while trying to put her ideals into practice. She served for four years as Obama’s human rights adviser, and in 2013, he named her US Ambassador to the United Nations, the youngest American to assume the role.
Power transports us from her childhood in Dublin to the streets of war-torn Bosnia to the White House Situation Room and the world of high-stakes diplomacy. Humorous and deeply honest, The Education of an Idealist lays bare the searing battles and defining moments of her life and shows how she juggled the demands of a 24/7 national security job with the challenge of raising two young children. Along the way, she illuminates the intricacies of politics and geopolitics, reminding us how the United States can lead in the world, and why we each have the opportunity to advance the cause of human dignity. Power’s memoir is an unforgettable account of the power of idealism and of one person’s fierce determination to make a difference.
“This is a wonderful book. […] The interweaving of Power’s personal story, family story, diplomatic history and moral arguments is executed seamlessly and with unblinking honesty.”—THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, The New York Times Book Review
“Honest, personal, revealing… about the development of a young woman’s inner strength and self-knowledge.”—COLM TÓIBÍN, author of Brooklyn and Nora Webster
“Truly engrossing.”—RACHEL MADDOW
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Have you ever wondered what effect one person can have on global problems? Samantha Power’s here to tell you. An Irish immigrant to the U.S., Power worked as a human rights activist, war correspondent, and Pulitzer-winning author, all before she started shaking things up on an even bigger scale, first as President Obama’s human rights advisor and then as ambassador to the UN. Having gone from outsider to insider to outsider again, she’s got a hell of a story to tell, and The Education of an Idealist does it with honesty, humor, and complete transparency. Not many books provide an intimate perspective on international crises in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria and explore what happens when you make a nearly career-derailing slipup in a media interview. That mix of insight and life lessons makes this an enlightening, empowering read.
In vividly told scenes, with bracing honesty and breathless prose, Pulitzer Prize winner Power (A Problem from Hell) reflects on the roads that led from her college days at Yale to her work in the U.S. government. She graduated from Harvard Law School, and in 2005 met Sen. Barack Obama, who asked her to serve as a foreign policy adviser. After his presidential election, Obama brought Power into the National Security Council in 2009, and from 2013 to 2017, she served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Power takes readers behind the scenes of her visits to Libya during the final tense days of the Qaddafi regime, pointing out that in spite of the downturn in security, Libya's citizens agreed that they wanted no international presence in their country, but to determine their own future. She discovered that Burma's human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi is a bad listener and that it's not clear that Suu Kyi cared that much about humans. Ultimately, she stresses the necessity of caring, acting, and not giving up when seeking to change people's lives. Power's vibrant prose, exuberant storytelling, and deep insights into human nature make for a page-turning memoir.
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Her Inspiring Life Continues
While searching for something interesting to read, I stumbled across Samantha Power’s “The Education of an Idealist” and I was simply overwhelmed by it! I had no idea how rich a tale that she had shaped for us. Where the path to the United Nations emerged from for this nine-year-old immigrant is hard to imagine. Her powerful character and the unique understanding of people, driven by her mother, shaped each step of her journey; her story to date is most wonderful and quite colorful as well.
Sam emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1979 with her mother, a dedicated doctor, and by the time she entered high school in Atlanta, GA, her Dublin accent had disappeared and her proficiencies in squash, tennis, baseball and basketball made her more American than most. She saw her unexpected acceptance to Yale as a dream destination and first began to pursue sports journalism but Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall, refocused her on history in her second year of Yale with a vengeance.
Power got her first exposure to a crumbling Yugoslavia and to the newly democratic Eastern Europe, traveling there during the summer of 1990. Consequently focusing on her grades that fall and on foreign policy, she qualified for a Carnegie internship upon her graduation in 1992. She moved to Washington and gained focus on what she wanted her future to be through reports on the human rights and changing events in Bosnia. The Serb Army was conducting the most brutal conflict since World War II there to create their own ethnically pure republic, with camps where they starved and beat minorities to dispose of them.
Needless to say, she was not the first person to believe that one person could make a difference. Her her efforts to cover the wars in Yugoslavia from 1993 to 1995 as a war correspondent were both unbelievable and dangerous. They made her recognize that world’s policymakers were reluctant to condemn mass atrocities or take on any responsibility for intervening in them and that better policy approaches were needed. She chose to pursue a law degree at Harvard and to continue to tell her story.
From 1998 to 2002, she was the Founding Executive Director at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and her book “A Problem from Hell”: America in the Age of Genocide was published in 2002; it won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2003. At age 39, Power served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council from 2009 to 2013. She served as President Obama’s United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017. She continues living a full life with her family in Concord, MA and serves on the faculty at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School.
As Power’s says, “People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change the world, but they can change many individual worlds.”
Bob Magnant is the author of ‘INCREDIBLE Storytelling' on iTunes, 'Domestic Satellite: An FCC Giant Step' and 'The Last Transition...', a fact-based novel about Iran. I write about the political process, globalization, the Internet and US policy. As a retired Federal IT Engineer, I share my experiences to promote a greater understanding for traditional writing that earlier generations still need for communicating with five Apple Books called the Fingertips series.