Tuesday, February 18, 2020


It is illuminating to understand how some admirable people got pointed in a direction we have come to admire.  Samantha Power reached my attention as a worker with Barrack Obama which automatically makes her a person to be admired.  But she didn't reach that status without a lot of twist and turns.

She is candid about relationships with Obama and other politicians that often involved not getting her way.  She also writes about the problems of a mother of young children trying to have influence with the government including breast feeding while overseas with and without her daughter.

Born in Ireland, she was more interested in sports than studying, but did enjoy reading.  Her mother overcame many obstacles to be a medical doctor.  Her father was a dentist, but spent too much time at a local pub where he also took his kids.  Her mother was distraught over her husband's alcoholism and developed a relationship with a doctor and moved to America.  She was able to gain custody of her two children.  Samantha felt very guilty when her father died, but had developed a good relationship with her mother's husband.

She lived in Pittsburgh and Atlanta and was very active in sports.  While attending university she had gone home to Atlanta to intern with a tv station.  For one game she had been asked to note about an Atlanta Braves game off a tv. screen.  At a studio surrounded by many other tv screens she got distracted by events at Tiananmen Square and was stunned.  It changed her focus to politics and world events,

She went on a trip to Europe with a boyfriend and further opened her eyes to international tensions.  After graduation she taught English in Berlin and became aware of Bosnian refugees  Working with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace she managed to get herself a journalist pass and went to Bosnia.  She spent a lot of time in combat zones and made friends that she kept in contact with.

While Barrack Obama was Senator, Samantha developed a relationship with him as he seemed to enjoy batting ideas around with her.  She had been concerned with the Balkans, Rwanda, Sudan but the conversation veered in many different directions.  When he made the decision to run for president she eagerly joined the battle.  Unfortunately in the midst of it an eager reporter picked up something she said about Hilary Clinton that forced her resignation.  Later, after an apology to Hilary they worked effectively together.  Before and during this crisis she had met another Obama supporter, Cass Elliott and while away from the campaign they got married.

I thought I had seen that name somewhere and it turned out he co-authored a book I had stumbled on and was impressed enough to write a blog:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/08/misbehaving-makg-of-behavioural.html 

She got involved with many important issues and left her mark.  She campaigned to make public announcement acknowledging the Armenian genocide with limited success.  Involved with the Russian negotiations regarding Syria's use of chemical weapons.  Formed relations with other ambassadors, especially women, but also notably Vitaly Churkon of Russia.  One issue she was successful  was getting support for LGBT issues despite Russian opposition.  During the Ebola crisis she traveled to Africa to the most affected areas.  Another issue (of many) she was involved with was Libya.

One of her goals was to influence Obama's announcements working with Ben Rhodes who helped her understand the constraints trying to deal with many different international concerns.   Sometimes the input was very slight and only arrived after much wrangling.  See more on Ben;  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/06/the-world-as-it-is.html

Near the end of her book and of her term as UN ambassador she recounts her experience with the 2016 election.  She had invited several women ambassadors to watch the election results thinking it would be an  historical moment.  Some of the women lived in dictatorships and had not really seen a democratic election before.  Unfortunately Donald Trump who promised to undo many of Obama's accomplishments won and spoiled the moment.  He is still a blot on American democracy.

Many ups and downs and some disappointments.  It is well worth reading to appreciate the persistence necessary to influence policies starting from an idealist base.

I would like to end with her ending "People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change the world, but they can change many individual worlds."

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