Hope. Change. No pair of words seemed more magical than those two when they helped now former President Barack Obama electrify an electorate in 2008. Although we saw them lose some of their potency in the years that followed, they still pack a strong nostalgic punch, especially now that Obama’s two terms have ended. If you wish you could go back to those “hopey, changey” times, then you’re in luck: The new book Thanks, Obama by David Litt, a former White House speechwriter, revisits our 44th president’s campaign and time in office.
Officially titled Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, the memoir chronicles Litt’s journey from Obama convert to campaign volunteer to president’s speechwriter. That means we also get an insider’s perspective of the administration’s accomplishments, and Litt doesn’t shy away from candidly sharing his own missteps or those of the president. He openly highlights their mistakes along with their triumphs.
If that sounds at all dry or overdone to you, rest assured it is not. Litt’s time in the West Wing had its share of fresh, hilarious moments. The first time he met Obama, for example, his reaction was pretty much what you’d expect of anyone: He “literally blacked out,” as he puts it.
Other encounters were equally entertaining, such as the time he had to serenade the president with the Golden Girls theme song, and when he had to break the news that Obama looked a little too Hilter-esque in one particular photo. These anecdotes serve as the perfect antidote to less pleasant memories, like disappointing mid-term election losses and frustrating gridlock in Congress.
That’s the beauty of Thanks, Obama. Litt is a skilled storyteller with a keen sense of humor and unique experiences and insight to draw upon. (It’s not every writer who can recommend the best White House restroom, after all.) He uses this lens to explore the former president’s legacy in his book, going beyond just the parts that “live on paper.”
Like many Americans, Litt experienced a variety of emotions during the Obama presidency, from inspiration to disillusionment to re-inspiration. The speechwriter argues that in spite of the struggles and disappointments, the former POTUS did change our country in many ways that no subsequent president can undo. Disillusioned as we may be, we must continue to strive for perfection. With Thanks, Obama, Litt will remind you that there are still hopey, changey times ahead.