The Audacity to Hope…for respect

I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up and saw this headline on Yahoo: Writer’s Welcome A Literary President- Elect.  What?

Writers getting some sort of national mention?

Are we in some sort of bizarro world now that the elections are over?

We very well may be.

Writing is the ugly step child of the cultural and entertainment field (my opinion, of course) and to have it mentioned on a national level outside of the discussion of education is rare.

So if this is a bizarro world, I like it.

See, I’d forgotten this somehow, but our new President Elect is himself a writer and quite the eloquent wordsmith, I might add. Until reading this article, I’d never thought much about how important the nation’s leader is when it comes to how certain cultural and entertainment forms are viewed.

Bush has an ivy-league education but that doesn’t automatically make him a lover of the written word. He is, in fact a baseball man.  It’s his right to have his passion. But when you’re the head dude in charge, your passion for one form of entertainment and culture may inadvertently push other forms out of the picture.

Obama being a writer could mean great things for writers and readers, alike.

Imagine reading becoming more of a “wanna do” activity and less of a “gotta do.”

Although the ability to read remains something to check off on a list of “what our students must do to be prepared for the real world,” the way we’re preparing them is actually killing the joy of reading. On top of that, there’s more focus on preparation for standardized testing than reading for pleasure and public libraries cutting back on hours. The message is – you must learn to read, but reading for the pure joy…meh, do it or don’t, no matter.

The prospect of the tone toward reading changing is exciting. If there’s a national tone change, it’s not unlikely we’ll see a domino effect resulting in the publishing industry being more adventurous and significantly broadening the portrayals offered. Imagine a flood of books in all genres featuring characters of all races, cultural/religious backgrounds, sexual preference etc…ranging from the most complex to the most friendly to reluctant readers.

It’s a beautiful thought and is only one publisher discovery away from reality.

Correct, me if I’m wrong, but this will be the first President who comes into the White House as a writer vs. writing once he’s there. And I’m hoping his being a writer will eventually impact policy in a way that will benefit writers and readers.

Author Rick Moody says it best:

“But I think the larger issue is cultural. There’s a trickle down from the top in the way art exists inside and outside of the culture as a whole. Here in the USA, you could feel in the Bush years how little regard there was for it. People who disliked art, literature, dance, fine arts, they had a lot of cover for this antipathy. There’s reason to believe that we are in for a much better period.”

Okay, here’s hoping!

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