As if there weren’t enough reasons to like Barack Obama already, I discovered through an ALA newsletter that he was the keynote speaker at the 2005 conference in Chicago. Best of all, his address is available online. In it he talks about the importance of education, reading, and, of course, libraries. I know you all can read it for yourselves, but I just have to point out a few things he says that I really liked:

Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible, from complex word problems and the meaning of our history to scientific discovery and technological proficiency. And by the way, it’s what’s required to make us true citizens.

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Our kids aren’t just seeing these temptations at home, they’re seeing them everywhere, whether it’s their friend’s house or the people they see on television or a general culture that glorifies anti-intellectualism so that we have a president who brags about getting C’s. That message trickles down to our kids. It’s too easy for children to put down a book and turn their attention elsewhere. And it’s too easy for the rest of us to make excuses for it. You know, pretending if we put a baby in front of a DVD that’s “educational,” then we’re doing our jobs.

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During the [senate] campaign last year, I was asked by a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times if she could interview me about the nature of my religious faith. It was an interesting proposition. I sat down with the reporter, who asked me some very pointed questions about the nature of my faith, how it had evolved. Then the reporter asked me a surprising question. She asked me, “Do you believe in heaven? And what’s your conception of it?”

I told her, you know, I don’t presume to know what lies beyond, but I do know that when I sit down with my six-year-old and my three-year-old at night and I’m reading a book to them and then I tuck them in to go to sleep, that’s a little piece of heaven that I hang onto.

I so cannot wait for January 20th!