Barack Obama is the President of the United States.

IN THE REVIEW

President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation—II

President Obama and Marilynne Robinson at the airport in Des Moines after their conversation, just before he boarded Air Force One, September 2015
Robinson: What does freedom mean? I mean, really, the ideal of freedom if it doesn’t mean that we can find out what is in this completely unique being that each one of us is? And competition narrows that. It’s sort of like, you should not be studying this; you should be studying that, pouring your life down the siphon of economic utility.

The President: But doesn’t part of that depend on people having different definitions of success, and that we’ve narrowed what it means to be successful in a way that makes people very anxious? They don’t feel affirmed if they’re good at something that the society says isn’t that important or doesn’t reward.

President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation in Iowa

President Obama and Marilynne Robinson at the Iowa State Library, Des Moines, September 2015
The President: How do you think you ended up thinking about democracy, writing, faith the way you do? How did that experience of growing up in a pretty small place in Idaho, which might have led you in an entirely different direction—how did you end up here, Marilynne? What happened? Was it libraries?

Robinson: It was libraries, it was—people are so complicated. It’s like every new person is a completely new roll of the dice, right?