Former President Barack Obama expressed concern on Monday about the growing number of book bans occurring in schools and libraries across America, emphasizing that such actions are in opposition to the principles that have contributed to the greatness of the country.
In a social media statement, Obama commended “the dedicated and hardworking librarians of America” for working “on the front lines” combating the book-ban movement. He also criticized attacks from those “who either cannot or will not understand the vital — and uniquely American — role you play in the life of our nation.”
Obama said books provide readers with the opportunity to “experience the world,” “empathize with others,” and “engage with diverse ideas and perspectives.” He emphasized that access to books is crucial for upholding First Amendment freedoms.
“It’s no coincidence that these ‘banned books’ are often written by or feature people of color, indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community — though there have also been unfortunate instances in which books by conservative authors or books containing ‘triggering’ words or scenes have been targets for removal” Obama said. “Either way, the impulse seems to be to silence, rather than engage, rebut, learn from or seek to understand views that don’t fit our own.
Obama also appeared in a TikTok video shared by the Kankakee Public Library, situated southwest of Chicago, on Monday.
According to a report by free speech advocacy group PEN America, Texas has been leading the nation in school book ban requests. The alarming surge in censorship attempts, with Texas at the forefront underlines the urgency to safeguard access to literature for all.
Libraries nationwide have also faced increased threats of violence and acts of intimidation as political efforts to censor reading materials continue to rise. In March, the American Library Association (ALA) revealed that the number of demands to censor library books reached a record high of 1,269 requests last year. As per the organization, this number nearly doubled the 729 challenges reported in 2021.
The ALA also highlighted that most targeted books were either written by or focused on individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.
Former President Barack Obama’s passionate stance against book bans highlights the critical need to protect intellectual freedom and uphold the democratic principles that define America’s greatness.
As libraries nationwide confront intimidation and violence amid this concerning trend, Obama’s message serves as a call to action for society to embrace the power of literature and ensure an inclusive platform for all voices to be heard and respected.
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Produced in association with Benzinga
Edited by Suparba Sil
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