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President Obama’s new publication

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The first of a proposed two volume series of President Barack Obama’s political memoirs was published on November 17, 2020, and is available in hardback, paperback, digital and audio format with the author doing the reading. This first volume – 768 pages – is titled ‘A Promised Land’ and has already been translated to 24 languages. Prophesied to be the year’s top seller, it has received rave notices. (Interestingly, a phone call to Vijita Yapa Bookshop on Thurston Road, had the manager telling me they had had two runs of the book – all sold out at Rs 9,000 and 6,000 plus and further orders are expected. Good; we seem to keep up with the times!!)

Obama has authored ‘Dreams from my Father’ 1995, his early autobiography, which I possess and read voraciously; ‘The Audacity of Hope’ 2006; ‘In his own words’ 2007 (speeches etc); ‘Change we can believe in’ 2008; and ‘Of thee I sing: a letter to my daughters’ 2008. Thus he is a writer and extremely readable. While other Presidents of the US who leave office usually embark on speech making with Jimmy Carter inaugurating his human rights Carter Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, and travelling worldwide on charity house-building with Habitat, Obama, and Michelle Obama too, are into publishing their writing. He definitely has a flair with words and wrote his speeches, some outstandingly memorable, himself.

I’ve read a considerable number of articles and reviews of Obama’s latest publication but I mean to quote Michiko Kakutani’s Dec. 8, 2020, review. Kakutani is to me the greatest literary critic of contemporary books and was chief book critic for the New York Times. I remember pouncing on her articles; excellent as they were, in the International Herald Tribune. She writes:

“Barack Obama’s new memoir ‘A Promised Land’ is unlike any other presidential autobiography from the past – or, likely, future. Yes, it provides a historical account of his time in office and explicates the policy objectives of his administration, from health care to economic recovery to climate change. But the volume is also an introspective self-portrait, set down in the same fluent, fleet-footed prose that made his 1995 book ‘Dreams From My Father’ such a haunting family memoir. And much like the way that earlier book turned the story of its author’s coming-of-age into an expansive meditation on race and identity, so ‘A Promised Land’ uses his improbable journey – from outsider to the White House and the first two years of his presidency – as a prism by which to explore some of the dynamics of change and renewal that have informed two and a half centuries of American history. It attests to Mr. Obama’s own storytelling powers and to his belief that, in these divided times, ‘storytelling and literature are more important than ever,’ adding that ‘we need to explain to each other who we are and where we’re going.’

 

The reader and writer

In a phone call with Kakutani, Obama had discussed authors he’s admired and learned from in the process of finding his own voice as a writer, and the role that storytelling can play as a tool of radical empathy to remind people of what they have in common – the shared dreams, frustrations and losses of daily life that exist beneath political divisions. While in Chicago as a community organizer, Mr. Obama had begun writing short stories – melancholy, reflective tales inspired by some of the people he met. Those stories and the journals he sporadically kept would nurture the literary qualities of ‘A Promised Land’. He says he tried to prove himself worthy to the father who abandoned him and his mother, who had starry-eyed expectations of her son of a black father. The reading Mr. Obama did in his 20s and 30s, combined with his love of Shakespeare and the Bible and his ardent study of Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Reinhold Niebuhr, would shape his long view of history. By looking back at history – at the great sin of slavery and its continuing effect, he could learn much.

Obama seems to have been a great reader –fiction, politics, autobiographies and biographies. When in Columbia University he gave up the attempts he made to be a Black Man in America, fraught as he was with identity problems inherited from a Kenyan father and white American mother. However the greater influence was his maternal grandparents. He gave up his desultory habits of youth – sports, parties and hanging out. He tried to become a serious person and turned rather reclusive and introspective. He read most of the American authors, more specially the coloured like Malcolm X. James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and others. He says Baldwin influenced him most with style of writing and also nature that emerged: humane, generous in spirit.

“Like Lincoln’s, Mr. Obama’s voice – in person and on the page – is an elastic one, by turns colloquial and eloquent, humorous and pensive, and accommodating both common-sense arguments and melancholy meditations (Niagara Falls made Lincoln think of the transience of all life; a drawing in an Egyptian pyramid makes Obama think how time eventually turns all human endeavors to dust).

“The two presidents, both trained lawyers with poetic sensibilities, forged their identities and their careers in what Mr. Kaplan calls ‘the crucible of language.’ When Mr. Obama was growing up, he remembers, ‘the very strangeness’ of his heritage and the worlds he straddled could make him feel like ‘a platypus or some imaginary beast,’ unsure of where he belonged. But the process of writing, he says, helped him to ‘integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole’ and eventually gave him a pretty good sense of who he was – a self-awareness that projected an air of calmness and composure, and would enable him to emerge from the pressure cooker of the White House very much the same nuanced, self-critical writer he was when he wrote ‘Dreams From My Father’ in his early 30s.”Further parallels between Abraham Lincoln and Mr. Obama, are that they both shared a mastery of language and a first class temperament for a president: “stoic, flexible, willing to listen to different points of view.”

As with his speeches, his first draft even of books is handwritten on a notepad using a particular ball point pen which he is fastidious about. Then he computer processes what he has handwritten while editing. His best time for writing is between 10.00 pm and 2.00 am. When writing seriously, he shuns too much reading as he fears it may distract him from the writing at hand. He did not keep a regular diary while at the White House; memory and notes and documented facts have helped him. He advices: “You just have to get started. You just put something down. Because nothing is more terrifying than the blank page.”

 

Hope – Obama’s wish for youth

Obama is first and last a humanist; I firmly believe this. Added to which is his intellect and wideness and clarity of thinking. I heard him on a recent BBC programme where he is intent on guiding the youth of today, starting with American, to have hope in the future. “To try to live your life, it’s useful to be able to seek out that joy where you can find it and operate on the basis of hope rather than despair. We all have different ways of coping, but I think that the sense of optimism that I have relied on is generally the result of appreciating other people, first and foremost, my own children and my family and my friends. But also the voices that I hear through books and that you hear through song and that tell you you’re not alone.”

I strongly feel those are superb ideas to keep in mind and pass on, specially to our younger generation as they seem rather rootless and lost. Read and read; appreciate others’ imagination and creativity; listen to stories and build up your own. And of course as Obama insists, have hope, optimism and appreciation of others.



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Features

To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur

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by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from www.wcicsl.lk and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Features

Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!

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In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL

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The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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