The education of an idealist
Samantha Power
William Collins Books

A book written by a former US Ambassador to the UN isn’t something that ignited me. This person being Irish American piqued my interest. Also her gender made me think of struggles she may have faced. Being of the same generation I can relate to the facts that while the world needs a lot of education now around equality this land of equals was something severely lacking in the minds of 70s and 80s school going kids and those starting of their careers. 

Powers childhood is shamefully stereotypically Irish in that alcohol played a huge part. Unlike many others her Mam (who was a doctor) had the perseverance and self belief to escape the relationship and travelled to the States for work and further education. So many others in similar backgrounds never had that opportunity. They stayed in the abusive relationship tied to family strings and a belief that was their lot. 

After leaving ireland and travelling to the states Power dived headlong into school and education. Again circumstances meant that she embraced diversity at a time when many of her peers weren’t able to. Some White Catholic Americans weren’t ready to embrace people of a different colour. Power had no objections. Some white catholic Americans couldn’t accept some people’s sexuality as if they were battling against God. Power had no such objections. Without realising it she was being different just by having friends who were gay or not white. 

I know little about the pedigree of US college life. My dalliances into third level in ireland came when my first born reached tate age and did something neither of her parents did, went to college. Again that was circumstances. If I grew up In another part of dublin maybe college would have been mapped out for me in the 80’s. Power was in the states, parents were doctors and studies were important. Yale became her college on leaving high school. Harvard was another she studied in. 

Living through this pandemic we know this is an historic time but history is what’s happening. Power took a trip to Europe after seeing the events of tianneman square in China. It looked like people were turning to democracy, the Berlin Wall fell, the old iron curtain was disintegrating and the spectre of a Second World War that defeated fascism less than 5 decades earlier was strong throughout. Then there was the genocide happening in former Yugoslavia where Croatians, Bosnians and Serbs were fighting for identity and huge numbers of people were being purged in the process. Her time as a journalist in Bosnia and the atrocities she reported on carries strong right throughout.

Of course if this is a history lesson it is important that Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, Kurdistan, Palestine  and Burkina Faso at the very least get mentioned. Places were people were being hounded out of their homes, killed or raped or maimed.  Most of them do. 

Going through history as we are right now pages will be written about the changeover in us presidents this year. No doubt the one term presidency of Donald Trump will get lots of inspection. Did the US turn its back on collectivism for individualism for 4 years. Did an experiment in unilateralism fail or succeed. It sure felt a lot different than Obama’s time as President. Part of Powers journey was on the campaign trail with Obama as he sought to be leader of the US. She then got a role in the administration and while the book does have a dip in the middle it is still fascinating to see how the journey of life always leads somewhere. 

Throughout it all I find myself stopping myself from casting aspersions. Deep down it is a story of some hope. I have opinions on foreign policy and neo liberalism. I feel a torch needs to be shone on human rights abuses and Power is helping to shine a dim light. Hopefully it is one that never fades. The book concludes with Hope stating that “people who care, act and refuse to give up may not change the world, but they can change many individual worlds”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *