Thanks to Tim Coates, who writes the widely and wildly read UK Good Library Blog (which we are proud to sponsor and host), I’ve come across a speech given by Barack Obama at the American Library Association’s annual conference in 2005. Here’s an extract:
More than a building that houses books and data, the library represents a window to a larger world, the place where weâ€™ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward and the human story forward. Thatâ€™s the reason why, since ancient antiquity, whenever those who seek power would want to control the human spirit, they have gone after libraries and books. Whether itâ€™s the ransacking of the great library at Alexandria, controlling information during the Middle Ages, book burnings, or the imprisonment of writers in former communist block countries, the idea has been that if we can control the word, if we can control what people hear and what they read and what they comprehend, then we can control and imprison them, or at least imprison their minds.
Thatâ€™s worth pondering at a time when truth and science are constantly being challenged by political agendas and ideologies, at a time when language is used not to illuminate but, rather, to obfuscate, at a time when there are those who would disallow the teaching of evolution in our schools, where fake science is used to beat back attempts to curb global warming or fund lifesaving research.
It was after reading Obama’s Dreams from My Father last spring that I became totally convinced he should be president, and not only because having a US leader who could write a book (as well as use the word obfuscate) was appealing. I was entranced by the idea that the leader of the most powerful nation on earth might be able to think about what it takes to create healthy, vibrant families and a thriving civil society, as well as about economic incentives and 21st-century defense systems.