The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

by Samantha Power
The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

by Samantha Power


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An intimate, powerful, and galvanizing memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner, human rights advocate, and former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. Named one of the best books of the year:

The New York Times • National Public Radio • TimeThe Economist • The Washington Post • Vanity Fair • Christian Science Monitor • Publishers Weekly • Audible

“Her highly personal and reflective memoir . . . is a must-read for anyone who cares about our role in a changing world.”—President Barack Obama

Includes an updated afterword

Tracing her distinctly American journey from immigrant to war correspondent to presidential Cabinet official, Samantha Power’s acclaimed memoir is a unique blend of suspenseful storytelling, vivid character portraits, and shrewd political insight. After her critiques of US foreign policy caught the eye of Senator Barack Obama, he invited her to work with him on Capitol Hill and then on his presidential campaign. When Obama won the presidency, Power went from being an activist outsider to serving as his human rights adviser and, in 2013, becoming the youngest-ever US Ambassador to the United Nations. Power transports us from her childhood in Dublin to the streets of war-torn Bosnia to the White House Situation Room and the world of high-stakes diplomacy, offering a compelling and deeply honest look at navigating the halls of power while trying to put one’s ideals into practice. Along the way, she lays bare the searing battles and defining moments of her life, shows how she juggled the demands of a 24/7 national security job with raising two young children, and makes the case for how we each can advance the cause of human dignity. This is an unforgettable account of the power of idealism—and of one person’s fierce determination to make a difference.

“This is a wonderful book. […] The interweaving of Power’s personal story, family story, diplomatic history and moral arguments is executed seamlessly and with unblinking honesty.”—THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, The New York Times Book Review 

“Truly engrossing…A pleasure to read.”—RACHEL MADDOW

“A beautiful memoir about the times we’re living in and the questions we must ask ourselves…I honestly couldn’t put it down.” —CHERYL STRAYED, author of Wild

“Power’s compelling memoir provides critically important insights we should all understand as we face some of the most vexing issues of our time.” —BRYAN STEVENSON, author of Just Mercy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062820709
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 01/26/2021
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 223,575
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Samantha Power is a Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School. From 2013-2017, Power served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s cabinet. From 2009-2013, Power served on the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. Power began her career as a journalist, reporting from places such as Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and she was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School.  Power’s book, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. She is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World (2008) and The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir (2019), which was named one of the best books of 2019 by the New York Times, Washington Post, Economist, NPR, and TIME. Power earned a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. 

Date of Birth:

September 21, 1970

Place of Birth:

Dublin, Ireland


Yale University and Harvard Law School

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part 1 1

1 Ireland 3

2 America 16

3 Loss 24

4 Dignity 33

5 Tank Man 40

6 Doers 50

7 Risk 62

8 Hearts of Darkness 72

9 "Tell Clinton" 83

10 The Secret to a Long Life 93

11 "Go Remember" 107

12 "A Problem from Hell" 118

13 Upstanders 131

14 Going to Washington 144

15 The Bat Cave 157

16 Yes We Can 169

17 Monster 181

18 Victory 199

Part 2 209

19 No Manual 211

20 Can We Go Home Now? 224

21 April 24th 234

22 Turnaround 247

23 Toolbox 266

24 Revolutions 283

25 All Necessary Measures 297

26 Let's Pray They Accomplish Something 312

27 One Shot 328

28 "Can't Be Both" 341

29 The Red Line 359

30 "Chemical Weapons Were Used" 372

31 When America Sneezes 391

32 Upside-Down Land 403

33 Us and Them 420

34 Freedom from Fear 434

35 Lean On 458

36 Toussaint 471

37 The Golden Door 490

38 Exit, Voice, Loyalty 502

39 Shrink the Change 517

40 The End 528

Afterword 543

Acknowledgments 555

Notes 559

Index 569

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