With the Oval Office changing hands at the end of this week, swapping the current tenant out for a stub-fingered racist made of Cheeto dust, it’s high time that we took a look at what some of the world’s most respected authors, have to say on Obama’s time as President of the United States:
George Saunders, award-winning journalist for The New Yorker, Harper's, McSweeney's and GQ and author of Lincoln in the Bardo
“The best thing that President Obama did for America was provide a role model, through his calm, dignified, compassionate nature. A leader is always a bloom from the national garden – might be a beautiful bloom or a noxious one. In the case of President Obama, we got very lucky to see the best aspects of our national character so well embodied: patience, humour, resilience, real curiosity, the willingness to listen to all sides.”
Lincoln in the Bardo is released 14th February.
Thomas Morris, author of We Don’t Know What We’re Doing
“All politicians are lizards, but some politicians are less lizard than others.”
We Don’t Know What We’re Doing is out now.
Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“I doubt we will be seeing the likes of Obama again for a very long time. Obama’s politics were not always great (deportations anyone?) but as an embodiment of black excellence, as a symbol of what our African diasporic community has achieved in the face of tremendous odds, Obama is a singularity whose importance cannot be overstated. And we ain’t ever had a cooler president. Ever. For what that’s worth.”
UPDATE: Junot Diaz was one of several writers invited to lunch with Obama, and wrote this on his Facebook page –
“I had lunch with President Obama on Friday, which was surreal and extraordinary to say the least. I figured after all my criticism of his policies I wouldn’t be high on his list for anything but clearly there’s room at his lunch table for dissent, something we won’t be seeing a lot of with the next president. What surprised me was how completely unbowed President Obama was, how certain he was that the country would find its way. He burned with optimism and faith invincible. If President Obama could still be positive after all the Republican bullshit he’d been through – that gave me hope. He was certainly one of the most complete men I’d ever met. With only a few days left before he leaves office I find myself, more than anything, overwhelmed by the knowledge that over the next four years we’re going to be missing Obama something awful.”
David Szalay, author of Man Booker 2016 nominated All That Man Is
“I think Barack Obama is probably one of the most civilised men ever to be President of the United States – perhaps too civilised to be maximally effective in that particular post. Having said that, he’s also a massively more talented politician than either of his possible successors, and would undoubtedly bury Trump in a landslide if he were allowed to run against him. His intelligence, sanity and sangfroid, and his moral authority as the first African-American president, will be sorely missed when he is gone...”
All That Man Is is out now.
Alex Wheatle MBE, award-winning author of Liccle Bit
“What immediately comes to my mind is his grace, poise and dignity, even as his right to be President of the USA was questioned by the ‘birther’ movement – and let’s not forget the part a certain Donald Trump played in that. And he maintained all of the above attributes while the Republicans employed blocking tactics – they shut down the government for days just to ensure Obama would never achieve his core objectives. Their agenda wasn’t for the good of the United States, it was because the very fact of the President being black offended them. Obama rose above all of that with his customary elegance. That’s what impressed me the most about his presidency.”
Lickle Bit is out now
“Shortly before he got famous, I spent a week with Obama. He was living in Chicago, just a local politician with an eye on the U.S. Senate. I was blown away by his easy-going brilliance. Two difference Chicago Democrats told me – I was reporting an Obama profile, interviewing people who knew him – “You are talking to the first black president.” I didn’t use the quotes. The thought had occurred to me, too, but I didn’t want to jinx him. Watching his star rise in the ensuing months and years was like watching a storybook destiny unfold. His presidency has been frustrating, though. We will never have a cooler president, but he could have accomplished much greater things if dealt a different historical hand. It’s also been extremely disturbing to see the depths of white racism aroused by the mere fact of his presidency. The U.S. feels like a darker place than it did eight years ago...”
Barbarian Days is out now.