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Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity [Kindle Edition]

Ian Reifowitz
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Our national identity is defined by what it means to be an American and whom we include and why when we talk about “the American people.” A country’s national identity is fluid, and Ian Reifowitz argues that President Barack Obama, by emphasizing the ideals Americans hold dear, hopes to redefine ours in a fundamental way. Obama’s conception of America emphasizes two principles of national unity: First, all Americans, regardless of their heritage and cultural traditions, should identify with America as their country, based upon shared democratic values, a shared history, and a shared fate. Second, America should embrace all its citizens as active participants in one “family.” Reifowitz explores Obama’s belief that strengthening our common bonds will encourage Americans to rectify the injustices and heal the racial divisions that still plague our country.

We have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that a society of many races and cultures can truly become one people. In facing terrorism, violent fundamentalism, and other security issues, Obama’s response centers on a powerful, inspiring, and truly inclusive American narrative. By bolstering America’s identity as diverse yet unified, he aims both to counter the anxieties and fears that radicalism stokes and give proponents of religious and political freedom a model they can defend. The stakes couldn’t be any higher in determining America’s future.

Editorial Reviews


"In this innovative, tightly reasoned, and concise work, Ian Reifowitz shows that Barack Obama’s contributions to strengthening America’s understanding of itself as an inclusive society transcend his status as the nation’s first African American president. Reifowitz brings a bracing dose of optimistic vision to today’s usually dreary and polarized political debates."—Allan J. Lichtman, author of White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement, and professor of history, American University

"With lively prose and interpretive precision, Ian Reifowitz reveals the forty-fourth president’s pivotal role in the remaking of American identity. Obama’s America is one of those rare works of history that should enlighten the future as well as it explains something of great significance about the past."—Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation and professor of history, Georgetown University

"This is social science at its best. The book focuses on the president but employs insights into his identity as an individual to provide a penetrating and novel view of our identity as a people."—Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule and University Professor, George Washington University

"Scrupulously attentive to the exact words used by Obama and his critics, Ian Reifowitz analyzes the discourse of race and national identity as it has swirled around the first black president. This book is a conscientiously documented, vigorously argued defense of Obama’s conception of the United States as an ethnoracial 'gumbo' sustained by a vibrant civic nationalism."—David A. Hollinger, author of Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism and professor of history, University of California, Berkeley

"Tracing Barack Obama’s discourses on national identity, Ian Reifowitz demonstrates how Obama privileges unity over division, nation over identity, and the pursuit of the common good over the pursuit of individual gain. Reifowitz explains clearly and engagingly how and why Obama’s vision of America is more inclusive and less divisive than that of any previous president. This book will be of interest to scholars of rhetoric, multicultural studies, and the American presidency, as well as to general readers of American history and politics."—Jennifer Mercieca, author of Founding Fictions, and associate professor of communication, Texas A&M University

"The election of Barack Obama was a major victory for race relations in America, pushing forth one of America's best values: cultural unity. Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity is a discussion of culture, social issues, and politics as Ian Reifowitz presents an optimistic view of what Barack Obama can do for America culturally, the fierce response to his rise, and what it ultimately means for America's future. An intriguing alternative perspective on the influence that Barack Obama holds on American culture, Obama's America is a solid addition to any cultural studies collection, highly recommended."The Midwest Book Review

About the Author

IAN REIFOWITZ is an associate professor of history at Empire State College of the State University of New York. In 2009 he received the college’s Susan H. Turben Award for Scholarly Excellence. His opinion pieces and articles on American politics have appeared in Newsday, the New Republic, History News Network, and the Daily Kos. He is the author of Imagining an Austrian Nation (East European Monographs, 2003). He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1976 KB
  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612344720
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (July 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008WF07ZS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,320,146 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitiely worth reading. August 4, 2012
Noah Webster's first American Dictionary defined American as "a native of America; originally applied to the aboriginals, or copper-colored races, found here by the Europeans; but now applied to the descendants of Europeans born in America." To be clear, for Webster the word American equaled white, and his dictionary labeled "Americans" as white while excluding Indians and ignoring Africans. But as Reifowitz rightly reminds us, American can mean something very different today. In the wake of deep economic recession, conflict over immigration and ongoing racial disparities and culture wars, Obama's America tackles the tough question of who we are as Americans and presents the president's evolving and forward-thinking (though not entirely unproblematic) answer. Definitely worth reading.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intrigued to Read! August 4, 2012
First, I am confused by the comment below that regards this book as "propaganda." The person who commented clearly did not read the book or even its review. It is irrational and even dangerous to label something propaganda simply because it is attached to a public servant you don't like.

That said, as someone who is politically in the middle of the road, I am very intrigued by this book. This book does hinge heavily on President Obama, but mostly, and more importantly, it is about what it means to be American and how this is evolving (if it is at all) and how our President, like any other president, is having an effect on that.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Development of Civic Nationalism August 12, 2012
Who is considered worthy of full and equal membership in the American community?

In this powerful and timely book, historian Ian Reifowitz traces the rocky path our national identity has taken over the past two centuries. When our country was first founded, only white men who owned property could vote. Being "American" was often equated with being Protestant, white, and male. For much of the time since then, many people have not been considered "real Americans": women, Native Americans, Jews, Catholics, immigrant groups (such as people from China, Ireland, Italy, Poland, eastern Europe, Japan, India, Africa, Mexico, Latin America, etc.), and gay people. In the 1950s, only those who gave up all their cultural heritage and adopted a rigid and narrow "American-only" identity were considered American.

But in the last few decades, a much more inclusive concept has developed of what an American is. This new outlook appreciates the many ethnicities, religions, and cultures that make up the multi-colored tapestry of America. In this view, being patriotic means embracing everyone who makes this country their home and valuing the rich diversity of ideas and culture that they (or their ancestors) brought with them, while at the same time embracing our mutual American history and identity.

Reifowitz sees President Barack Obama's vision of our American identity as exemplifying this "democratic pluralism". Obama contrasts our civic nationalism with the divisive ethnic nationalism (and religious fundamentalism) that afflicts many countries and with the hyper-individualist, Ayn-Randian perspective that scoffs at the common good. Reifowitz sees the development of this civic nationalism as a very positive development in our history - embracing an image of ourselves that is both unifying and fully inclusive.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars refute dangerous propaganda August 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I look forward to reading the book. Dr Reifowitz is a noted academic and researched the topic well with many references to speeches.
I have just ordered the book and look forward to reading it and the views it presents. Ir seems obvious to me that
"dangerous propaganda" (review) has not read the book for he does not present any evidence or references to the book to establish his point.I think that this is just another Obama hater propagating his propagandistic views,in a phrase(blowing smoke).Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative, unique viewpoint August 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Obama's America is a pleasure to read, and focuses closely on the 'vision' that Barack Obama has articulated, and repeated, over and over throughout his public life. The book provides a studied review of how the President has consistently motivated the American people to see beyond themselves, and move to a more inclusive view of the word American. I hope that people of all affiliations read this and understand that whatever they might think about Obama, the author shows that Obama wants them in America.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars timely, engaging November 18, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is worth a read and could come at no better time! The last election showed us if we ever doubted that our national identity has been shifting and that our President reflects this shift like no other.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book explains a lot December 22, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
He explains the difference between civic nationalism, for which America is famous, and which Obama proudly defends and tries to extend, and ethnic nationalism, AKA Blut und Erde (blood and soil) nationalism, which the author, quite rightly in my view, identifies as the driving spirit of many American (and German, Russian, Chinese etc) right wing intellectuals. And although he doesn't quite go there, he implies that Obama is a boon to Jews who want to live in America, while his opponents should make Jews feel mighty uncomfortable
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good synopsis of Barack Obama, his life and philosophy
A very good synopsis of Barack Obama, his life and philosophy. Reifowitz gives a thorough history lesson in multiculturalism from the civil rights era though Obama's election in... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Eric S. Ando
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Product was satisfactory in every way
Published 7 months ago by James N.
1.0 out of 5 stars This is some of the most sanctimonious, inane writing I've been forced...
Could there really be a person that would have any interest in finding out what Obama's vision is of America? Really? Really? Read more
Published 21 months ago by lewislapin
1.0 out of 5 stars Heard the Author Interviewed About This Book (WHAS 9-9-12)
Reifowitz is another leftist who claims to be "inclusive" but is "optimistic" because "America's demographics are changing." (WHAS interview 8:30am Sunday, Sep. Read more
Published on September 9, 2012 by Packbook
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Insightful!!!
This book is an amazing and accurate depiction of President Obama visions for this country. The comments by the negative reviewers are ignorant and idiotic, please ignore them. Read more
Published on September 1, 2012 by Collin McCreath
1.0 out of 5 stars Another Diversion By the Obama Cult
I admit I haven't read this book but felt necessary to comment regarding it's clever title. An obvious diversion from a book the Obama zombies don't want you to read. Read more
Published on August 19, 2012 by Chipito
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More About the Author

Raised in Smithtown, Long Island, Ian Reifowitz graduated from Brown University with a BA in history and from Georgetown University with a PhD in history. Since 2002, he has taught history at Empire State College of the State University of New York, and in 2009 received the college's Susan H. Turben Award for Scholarly Excellence. His opinion pieces and articles on American politics have appeared in the Daily News, Newsday, The New Republic, The Post-Star, and other publications. His first book, Imagining an Austrian Nation: Joseph Samuel Bloch and the Search for a Multiethnic Austrian Identity, 1846-1919, was published by East European Monographs and distributed by Columbia University Press in 2003. He has published a number of academic articles in the Journal of Jewish Identities, Nationalities Papers, and East European Quarterly, amongst other publications, as well as numerous book reviews.

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