“Of Thee I Sing” – The Historical Connection
Various media and press releases have announced a book written by President Obama will be released around November 16, around two weeks after the election.
CBS news announced the release on the evening news on September 14.
The title of the book is “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters,” which is 40 pages long with illustrations by Loren Long, “an award winning author and illustrator. According to Barnett, Long has spent much of the past two years creating the illustrations, each one a carefully executed painting.”
According to the Telegraph, “President Obama is the first president to write a book for children in office,” while many sources report that the book was completed prior to Obama taking office.
The book is getting rave reviews by publishers and consumers alike.
Random House children’s president and publisher Chip Gibson lauded the new Obama book, which is intended for readers ages 3 and up.
“It is an honor to publish this extraordinary book, which is an inspiring marriage of words and images, history and story,” Gibson said Monday in a statement. “‘Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters’ celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans — the potential to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths.”
One source says that people are pre-ordering the book:
Less than 48 hours after the announcement of President Obama’s forthcoming children’s book, “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” the title is a bestseller – landing in the top 25 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com as of Wednesday morning based on advance sales, reports AP.
The book celebrates figures including the first president George Washington, Jackie Robinson and artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
The article, “Obama to Publish Children’s Book” explained that, “The title is taken from the lyrics of “My Country, ‘Tis of thee” an early American patriotic song.”
Interestingly, the title of the book, “Of Thee I Sing,” was also the title of a Broadway musical by Gershwin in 1931:
The original Broadway production, directed by Kaufman, opened in 1931 and ran for 441 performances, receiving critical and box office success. It has been revived several times in the U.S. and in London. Of Thee I Sing was the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1932.
Apparently, the musical was so popular that it became the “longest running musical of its decade.” A synopsis by Brian D. Sweeney includes this description:
The play mocks the ineffective politicians with their empty campaign slogans, but even more so it points the finger at the American populace that is willing to accept them and even elect them to office. Wintergreen’s road to success is a tribute to surface politics; he excites the voters out of apathy with his “love” campaign; he avoids impeachment by appealing to his appending fatherhood; and in singing his ballad-anthem “Of Thee I Sing, Baby” he woos both Mary and the nation, as the ambiguous lyric suggests.
As I uncovered more of the story of this musical, the more interesting it became to the current political climate.
From the Of thee I sing [song collection]:
It was one of the first Broadway productions to deal with the serious subject of the American political scene, satirizing inept politicians with limited vision and the voters who elected them.
“Recovery, Recovery, Of Thee I Sing”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sings “Recovery, recovery, of thee I sing,” a reference to the popular “Of Thee I Sing” in this cartoon. His sheet music credits him as author of the “words and music.” Dame Democracy plays the piano while an old opponent for the Democratic nomination, Al Smith, sits glumly aside. By midsummer 1933, the first year of Roosevelt’s presidency, Congress had passed a record amount of New Deal legislation.
My how history repeats….