Obama hails booksellers as he kicks off ABA Winter Institute

Obama hails booksellers as he kicks off ABA Winter Institute

Barack Obama kicked off the American Booksellers Association (ABA) Winter Institute yesterday (18th February) by thanking bookstores for their work in passing on knowledge.

Following a montage highlighting the resilience of booksellers in a challenging year, the former US President recalled how as a child he found a pile of hardcover books at a sale and reading became a “refuge” that expanded his mind and forged his identity.

He said: “What happened to me, you're providing for so many other kids and teenagers and adults around the world. The same thing that those rummage sales first provided me. You aren't selling books, you're selling knowledge, discovery, wisdom, empathy, access to thoughts and worlds that readers have never experienced before. By virtue of them experiencing the lives of others through books, they start to understand themselves better.

“So, as a reader and as an author, I couldn't be more grateful for the work that all of you do every single day, especially in such a tough year. Thank you all for everything.”

ABA c.e.o. Allison Hill, who started her role in early March last year, was also full of praise for the work of her members despite all the problems 2020 threw up.

She assured members: “Things are shifting and opening up and now seems the perfect time to move forcefully and fearlessly into what comes next. We move forward knowing that we are stronger and more resilient as a channel than we ever imagined. We move forward with the knowledge that your communities need you more than we even knew and we move forward knowing that what we do in this transition year of 2021 will define the years to come.”

The first day of the institute also included a reading by poet Amanda Gorman, fresh from her four-book publishing deal with Penguin Random House. However, the first keynote by Brene Brown had to be moved to the weekend because she, like many others, had been left without power and water by the Texas winter storms. Instead “futurist” Brian David Johnson told booksellers about how to create their own “future story” by picking their team, choosing the right tools, speaking to experts and breaking down their goals.