Presidential reads

Presidential reads 24

The reading and writing habits of government leaders

America goes into the polls this November. In the red corner is Master Apprentice, Donald John Trump, Sr., while in the blue corner is former First Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. This is an election that has defied pundits and their predictions, more so the rise and rise of Trump amidst controversy built on controversy.

Away from the politics and policy though, is the small matter of reading and writing (or in the case of Trump, not reading and ghostwriting). As Jane Meyer reports in The New Yorker in her seminal article Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All, ‘Trump, facing a crowd that had gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, laid out his qualifications, saying, “We need a leader that wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.’” If that was so, Schwartz thought, then he, not Trump, should be running. Schwartz dashed off a tweet: “Many thanks Donald Trump for suggesting I run for President, based on the fact that I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.’”

Anecdotes aside, reading is serious business for leaders, more so, those seeking to run governments. As policy makers, it behooves them to have a firm grasp of issues and the wherewithal to communicate them effectively for meaningful discourse and implementation. Moreover, such readings inform their ideologue. Below is a compilation of the leaders’ read (and in some cases, what they have written).

Jomo Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya,  A publication by Kenya’s first president detailing the cultural norms and practices of his native Agikuyu ethnic group. His other notable publications include My People of Kikuyu and the Life of Chief Wangombe, Kenya: The Land of Conflict and Harambee!

Barrack Obama, some of POTUS reads, as reported in the Telegraph, UK, include: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos; Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. He has authored Dreams from My Father, The Audacity of Hope and of Thee I Sing.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, the first president of Senegal and poet par excellence read widely on philosophy, to the extent of being one of the originators of negritude – an ideological movement affirming the self-worth of the black race. His works include: Songs for Naeett, Ethiopiques, and Nocturnes.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is a lover of the written word from childhood. Her favourite reads include fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm as well as classicals such as Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Hillary Clinton’s, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the presidential election include The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou, Missing You by Harlan Coben, The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and Faith of My Fathers by John McCain.


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