Is It Really Worth It to Be in the Room Where It Happens?

By | 2019-09-20 | including 1 item |
Former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power has a rule for making big decisions that she calls the “X test”: An action is worth taking if “in trying for Y, the most I accomplish is X.” In other words, will it still be a worthwhile experience, even if you fail? Even if all you accomplish is learning something? On the evidence of Powers’ memoir, The Education of an Idealist, this is a great principle for having a rewarding and accomplished life and career. It’s less clear whether it’s a good principle for conducting foreign policy. Amid the flood of memoirs from Obama administration veterans, Powers’ stands out as worth reading. For starters, she’s a better writer than a lot of them—she was a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author long before she got into government. She’s also done more that’s worth reading about. Like the best journalists, Power has a gift for finding the perfect anecdote to illustrate a larger idea or theme, and this is the rare political memoir where you definitely shouldn’t skim the “early years” chapters.