A collection of inside stories from Barack Obama’s White House.
Raghavan’s first publication highlights his work as Obama’s Office of Public Engagement liaison to the LGBTQ community, a position that brought him into contact with the people who really made the administration one of inclusion and brotherhood. “I can’t speak for other White House staffs,” writes the editor, “but many of us who worked in the Obama White House came from well outside the circles of wealth, access, and privilege. That’s especially true for people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, veterans, women [and] people with disabilities.” Each of the volume’s contributors personifies Obama’s philosophy that we’re all our brothers’ keepers. The life-changing effect of being sought out by the president or his staff comes through clearly, but actually working there could be overwhelming. The long hours and constant pressure were exhausting, and not all could take the burden for two terms. The days were alternately crushingly disappointing and extraordinarily joyful. Stephanie Valencia, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign and then in the OPE, writes about her thrill at the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. There are names many readers will know—e.g., Cecilia Muñoz and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez—but most are the anonymous dedicated people working 18-hour days for their country. The presidential videographer’s story of Obama’s speech at the site of the 2015 Charleston shooting brings us right to the church, singing “Amazing Grace” with him. The president’s staff was mostly successful in balancing the needs of the communities they represented with the president’s agenda. These people dealt with Muslim issues, tribal problems, racial conflict, marriage equality, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and much more. Overall, the collection covers a wide swath of characters, including a West Wing receptionist who was deaf and even the pastry chef.
A quick, readable, and often moving book—and a welcome contrast to the current dismal state of the White House.