Around the time that you receive this post, you may be aware of something happening today in Washington, D.C. It is inauguration day and by midmorning in Alberta, the transfer of power will pass from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.
I feel compelled to speak up about my dismay at what this change in leadership means but for a very good Calgary Reads reason! President Obama, like most of his predecessors in the White House, is an avid reader. He is known for reading voraciously and has a long list of favourite books that shaped his personality and leadership values.
Sadly, it looks as though there will no longer be a “reader-in-chief” in the Oval Office for the next four years. In contrast to the outgoing president, President Trump has on numerous occasions proudly declared that “I never have read. I’m always busy doing a lot.”
Those of you who follow our work know that at Calgary Reads we all know that people make time for what they value. When Mr. Trump boasts that he is too busy to read, he is really saying that it’s not important enough to him, (unlike, say, Twitter).
He lacks an appreciation of the importance of acquiring knowledge through books, which require slow, deliberate study. He is missing out on the fact that reading builds empathy and understanding, that the ideas and inspiration of others can “tear down walls instead of building them, and in this increasingly globalized and fractured world, we should all be reading more, especially the president.” For Obama books gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition and helped him cope with the loneliness of his Office. President Kennedy even averted war with the Soviet Union because his eyes were opened to its possible consequences from a book he was reading.
I hope that it’s clear that this blog is not Anti-Trump. Rather, it is pro-literacy and pro-literature, pro-stories and pro-history. Whatever your political leaning, one thing we can all agree on is that we need our leaders to be readers: to be well-read, well-educated, empathetic, and not only open to new ideas and the opinions of people who are different to them, but actively seeking them.