Monday, July 11, 2011

A game of character: A family journey from Chicago's Aouthside to the ivy league and beyond

By Craig Robinson with Mim Eichler Rivas

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

If you’re just looking for a book of inspiration — searching for love, seeking discipline, establishing respect, living with conviction, being relentless, revealing passion — this would be a good choice.

If the book you want to read would be one about parental influence — that is, how parents can positively affect one’s life, and the imprint parents can leave on their children and their children’s values — this would be a good choice.

If, instead, you want a book about character — how a single person with strong motivation and unbelievable conviction — not only can influence others, but in special, well-orchestrated ways does influence those around him — this would be a good choice.

This is a well-written book in which Robinson derives important lessons from the way he was raised, the influences of both his parents, and the various guides and suggestions from his environment (teachers, professors, other coaches, co-players, kids he coached, and mentors) that he shares with his readers.

However, if you want a book that gives insight into the character of both Michelle Obama or Barack Obama, then this becomes an even more enjoyable and insightful choice.  For example, I found fascinating the way Craig and his sister, Michelle, went about vetting Barack — determining whether or not he would be a suitable suitor.  The insights Craig derived from the way Barack played a “pick-up” basketball game were both delightful and telling.  

It was great fun reading about how Michelle (Craig calls her Miche) LaVaughn Robinson met Barack (while he was interning at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago).  Craig writes of Miche’s interest: “But before that evening when we first met him, apparently Barack almost blew it by asking her out that first summer when he worked for her as an intern.  Big mistake!  When I heard about that, I had little hope for the guy.  Michelle turned him down, adamantly.  While I didn’t get the transcript of what she said, I can assure you that when my sister is adamant about something, there is no negotiating to follow” (p. 149).  There is much more on this, but this gives you an idea of how much insight and information Craig shares — and how he uses examples from his life to draw lessons.  In this case it was how the types of choices we make reveal character.

It was even more fun reading about Sasha as the flower-girl at Craig’s wedding, how she was coached, and then how she performed — dropping one petal at a time “with thoughtful strategy and purpose” (p. 184).  Delightful stuff.

How Michelle delivered the “best-man toast” at the reception was also insightful.  When she became choked-up, Barack “rose from his seat and went to stand next to her,” and how “I [Craig] went to stand on the other side of my sister—but I was more emotional than the two of them.  And by the time Michelle was done, everybody in the place was crying like a baby” (p. 186).

The way Barack introduced the idea of running for the presidency, how he bounced the idea off Craig, and how Barack “asked if I [Craig] minded talking to Michelle about how this window of opportunity might not ever be available again . . .” (p. 189), is truly fascinating history.  What Craig experienced emotionally before confronting Miche and his mother about Barack’s intentions was interesting, and how he prepared for both meetings was eye-opening to say the least (pp. 189-192).

Craig offers insider information about the planning and running of the campaign for the presidency and the role he was asked and came to play in the campaign.  He talks about the importance that the interactive Web site played in the campaign and how “the game plan developed by Barack with his closest strategists (David Axelrod and David Plouffe) hinged on changing the game of politics as usual” (p. 198).  There is no one else who can provide these insights, observations, and responses.  What the Obama campaign asked of Craig Robinson was really “above his pay grade,” but how he responded, prepared, and delivered is information you will not find elsewhere.

I thought what Craig writes about the campaign’s response to the “out-and-out-lies being reported as fact” was exceptional information: “Indeed, Barack, Michelle, and all of the Obama fr President staff would stay up above the fray and not get into the mud-slinging.  In the general election, that quality of character — keeping your cool and having the right temperament — would help win the day.  Barack’s natural ability to remain calm and focused on the problem at hand — ‘No Drama Obama’ — thus made him the leader that America needed at a time of grave uncertainties.  It’s one of his attributes that continues to amaze me [Craig], and I know him pretty well” (p. 209).

Sure, the book is about Craig, about basketball, and about character, but this book is amazing on a number of different levels.  At just 256 pages, it is well worth the read!

This book can be found at  A game of character: A family journey from Chicago’s southside to the ivy league and beyond

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have you read the latest book review? Have you read the book? What do you think? Thank you for your comment.