Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the UN, announced that she is working on a memoir titled The Education of an Idealist, about her time in the Obama administration and her “transition from critic of U.S. foreign policy to U.S. government official,” as she put it in a statement.
Power is the youngest person to hold the office of UN ambassador. But before she took up the post, she was best known as a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author of the 2003 book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, in which she harshly criticizes America’s failure to intervene to prevent mass killings in Bosnia and Rwanda.
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As UN ambassador, Power confronted crises in Libya, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, often becoming the target of criticism for not pushing the Obama administration to intervene more forcefully. The limitations of her office led critics to conclude that public service had dimmed Power’s commitment to the idealism she expressed in A Problem From Hell.
But in a 2014 interview with The New Yorker, Power pushed back against that narrative, giving a taste of how she thinks about her career trajectory: “The way that kind of story is told is ‘She wrote the book, she was critical because she didn’t really understand how hard it was’…then the assumption is Eliza Doolittle learned how hard it is, and then that makes her less critical, or more accepting of crummy outcomes.”
Power told The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, “You learn in government what the obstacles are. But that’s not so you can go take a nap. It’s so you can figure out how to scale them or work around them. Does one get a better sense about context and about impediments and about trade-offs in government? Absolutely. But those are not alibis—those are problems to be solved.”
Power, who now teaches at Harvard Law School, took to Twitter on Monday to apologize for the fact that the Armenian Genocide went unrecognized during the Obama administration. “Almost every Armenian-American family was touched in some way by the genocide. Ongoing Turkish denial makes the genocide an open wound,” she wrote.
On Friday at the University of Pennsylvania, Power took aim at the Trump administration’s refugee policy in her first public address since leaving office. “It’s not a coincidence that, in the wake of President Trump’s executive order and the presentation of his proposed budget, all around the world leaders are pointing to U.S. policy as justification to slam their doors, to shrink their financial contributions and even to expel or detain asylum-seekers in their midst,” she said.
Her memoir will be published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishing, and does not yet have a release date. “I am looking forward to stepping back to explore the highs and lows, and to share ideas for how, even in troubled times, we can each do our part to shape a more humane future,” Power said of the project.