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Barrack Obama Slams 'Profoundly Misguided' Book Bans

Barrack Obama Slams 'Profoundly Misguided' Book Bans
Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

In a message to librarians, the former president said banning books is antithetical "to what has made this country great."

Former President Barack Obama is speaking out against "profoundly misguided" book bans, which he believes are "contrary to what has made this country great."

In a statement directed primarily at librarians within the United States, Obama condemned the recent wave of book bans sweeping the nation. Though he did not single-out any particular case, the bans have almost exclusively been pushed by conservatives.

"Today, some of the books that shaped my life — and the lives of so many others — are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives," the former president wrote. "And librarians are on the front lines, fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas available to everyone."

Obama praised the librarians who ensure equal access to information, returning repeatedly to the idea that they are on the "front lines" of an ongoing struggle. He commended their commitment to upholding "uniquely American" ideals – freedom of speech and freedom of press.

"In a very real sense, you're on the front lines – fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas available to everyone," he continued. "Your dedication and professional expertise allow us to freely read and consider information and ideas, and decide for ourselves which ones we agree with."

Book bans were implemented in record numbers in 2022, with the most-banned book being Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel Gender Queer. The former president noted that the majority of bans target books that include LGBTQ+ or racial identities.

"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," he said.

While they are increasing in prominence, a May poll from IPSOS/NPR found that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose efforts to ban books, with 65 percent in opposition to school boards banning books and removing them from classroom libraries, as well as 69 percent opposed to laws that ban certain books.

Obama noted in his statement that the bans overtaking the United States today could have a detrimental impact on free speech throughout the world.

"It's also important to understand that the world is watching. If America – a nation built on freedom of expression – allows certain voices and ideas to be silenced, why should other countries go out of their way to protect them?"

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