Michiko Kaktutani of The New York Times has published an amazing article about Barack Obama’s habits of reading and writing during his days in the White House. Obama is, at heart, a humanist–a man of ideas and a student of the human condition. I am struck by Obama’s commitment to this kind of thinking, reading and writing amidst the daily rigors of running the United States. He is a President who refused to be intellectual stagnant. He was constantly replenishing his mind with new ways of thinking about the world. He regularly used books to cultivate empathy in his life–to “get in somebody else’s shoes.”
I love what Obama says about history:
The writings of Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Mr. Obama found, were “particularly helpful” when “what you wanted was a sense of solidarity,” adding “during very difficult moments, this job can be very isolating.” “So sometimes you have to sort of hop across history to find folks who have been similarly feeling isolated, and that’s been useful.” There is a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address in the Lincoln Bedroom, and sometimes, in the evening, Mr. Obama says, he would wander over from his home office to read it.
Read the entire piece here. It is worth your time. If Obama could sustain this kind of intellectual life in the White House then we have no excuse when it comes to sustaining it in our own busy lives.