What it means to be an American today


Obama's America

A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity

270 pages; 6" x 9" ; Notes; Bibliography; Index

$29.95   $23.96
Available: July 2012
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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.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)

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.


"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

"Reifowitz . . . offers a compelling account of how Barack Obama has offered a "transformative vision of our national identity" in relationship to the discourse of the Founders. . . . Highly recommended."—W. Glasker Rutgers, Choice

"Obama's America is a relevant, thoughtful read for anyone interested in Barack Obama, his rhetoric, and the ongoing negotiation of our American identity."—Michael R. Kramer, Presidential Studies Quarterly

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