Excerpt from Airlift to America by Tom Shachtman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Airlift to America

How Barack Obama, Sr., John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours

by Tom Shachtman

Airlift to America
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  • Published:
    Sep 2009, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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Print Excerpt


Obama lost the 2008 Massachusetts primary to Clinton but won many other primaries in the late winter and early spring, and amassed significant numbers of delegates even in states where he came in second. His delegate total continued to rise until June 4, 2008, when it became obvious even to die-hard Clinton supporters that Barack Obama would win the Democratic nomination.

In a speech announcing the delegate total that put him over the top, he called his victory a “defining moment for our nation,” the nominating of an African- American as the presidential candidate of a major political party. “[T]onight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another— a journey that will bring a new and better day to America.”

Five months later, in the general election, Obama was elected as the nation’s forty-fourth president. His new prominence as a result of his victory emphasized that much more needed to be known about the East African airlifts, which had started his ball rolling.

Like the story of Obama’s rise, the airlifts were an expression of a quintessentially American trait, an aspect of what America had so consistently offered to the peoples of the rest of the world: an open, helping hand, and the experience and understanding of what it means to be free, to be educated, and to conceive personal dreams that have a substantial chance of being realized.

This book tells that story, recounting the creation, execution, and achievements of those airlifts, including their important effects on the presidential elections of 1960 and 2008, as well as on the integration of American campuses, on the way that foreign students were recruited for the United States and treated once here, and on the health and survival of the independent nations of East Africa in their most formative years.

Excerpted from Airlift to America by Tom Shachtman. Copyright © 2009 by Tom Shachtman. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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