Videos made by local libraries featuring the former president are going viral as he speaks up for people's right to free speech and freedom to read books of their choice.
The sudden surge in books getting banned in schools in the U.S. has managed to sweep away notable literary masterpieces from the shelves of libraries. The dramatic censorship attempts to keep a check on the kind of books school students read have raised questions about freedom of expression. With works of authors like John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger and Toni Morrison leaving the library shelves of American schools, former American president Barack Obama has continued his fight against this book ban with an interesting step.
According to The Guardian, Obama has teamed up with local libraries to make cameo appearances in Tiktok videos related to this issue. Obama has also penned an open letter to American libraries and criticized the "profoundly misguided rightwing effort" to ban certain books from public school libraries.
"Some of the books that shaped my life – and the lives of so many others – are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives," the former president wrote on Twitter. "It’s no coincidence that these ‘banned books’ are often written by or feature people of color, indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ+ community."
Today, some of the books that shaped my life—and the lives of so many others—are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives. And librarians are on the front lines, fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and… pic.twitter.com/txhCTfH3Gh— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 17, 2023
"Either way, the impulse seems to be to silence, rather than engage, rebut, learn from or seek to understand views that don’t fit our own. I believe such an approach is profoundly misguided and contrary to what has made this country great," Obama's letter further read. The 44th president of the United States and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, have both penned bestselling books like "Dreams of My Father," "The Audacity of Hope," "A Promised Land," "Becoming" and Michelle's follow-up book, "The Light We Carry."
In his letter, Obama also wrote how writers "like Mark Twain and Toni Morrison, Walt Whitman and James Baldwin taught him something essential about his country’s character."
With his open letter, Obama supported the Unite Against Book Ban campaign led by the American Library Association. Kankakee Public Library located in Illinois shared a TikTok video featuring the former president and it quickly went viral on the platform. In the video, viewers can see the library staff members reading books that are subject to ban or attempted bans. Obama appears at the end of the clip, reading a book and sipping from a library-branded mug. "Reading can transport you to new worlds," the text at the end of the video reads. Many netizens have wondered why these videos featuring Obama have not gone viral yet.
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Obama also appears in another TikTok posted by Harris County Public Library. He once again appears at the end of this TikTok video and addresses the viewers. "Books let us learn about new worlds and ideas. That's power. This freedom should be available to everyone," Obama says to another guy in the clip through a video call as the man named Larry wonders about whether he should pick up Michelle Obama's autobiography or Obama's to read next. The American Library Association has found that in 2022 around 2571 books were targeted for censorship, mostly by parent-led groups, conservative groups and Republican politicians.
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