Former US Ambassador to the United Nations under Barack Obama (2009-2017), Samantha Power is preparing to return to the public service.
The journalist has been appointed by Joe Biden as head of USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and is waiting for her name to be confirmed by the Senate – which should happen when the Easter break returns.
During this time he published his memoir, “A Educação de Uma Idealista” (Companhia das Letras), and recalls in nostalgic terms, in an interview with Folha, his time in journalism.
Power is also the author of the biography of Brazilian diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello, launched in Brazil by the same publisher (“The man who wanted to save the world”).
You delve deeply into its origins in “The Education of an Idealist”. How important is your journey to the person you have become? I have the soul of a writer. I think being chosen to work with Barack Obama was a big event. But I wanted to write a book that was also important for people not necessarily interested in the United States and Obama. I wanted to do a type of memory where the main character, in this case me, appeared in a life story arc that is common to a lot of people.
A lot of people experience immigration, the idea of being new in one place, and I wanted to go back to my origins in Ireland to get in touch with people who also feel like ‘the new kid’ in class “in this country. Basically the message is that these people can make a difference in the world, that their path will be complicated, but there is this possibility.
The figure of his mother appears to be a great influence. How important has this been in your life and how important do you think it is for more women to take up important positions like it has happened to you? Our mother is the force of nature in our lives. And my mom especially got a lot of strength when she moved from Ireland with me and my little brother. She was a clever woman who was not afraid of limits. He was an athlete, he played squash, tennis, hockey, was a doctor. It has always taught me that if you have a dream in life, you should never give up trying. Although the prospect of failure exists.
When I went to work with Obama, a feminist president, I was still surprised at how masculine that environment was. I believe that having more women to make decisions in government helps a lot. In general, women are good builders of bridges, of dialogues between the parties. In a peace negotiation, for example, I think it is essential to have women, because they have a more complex vision of a crisis situation. They understand the socio-economic causes better, are more subtle and more accommodating, at least in general.
You tell in the book how excited you were about your first job as a correspondent when you were sent to cover a conflict in the Balkans. How important is it today that the media continue to send journalists to cover crises on the ground? It is fundamental, and I note with great sadness that it is an area which suffers from many cuts in journalism. Today the coronavirus crisis has shown us in a very painfully clear way just how connected we are. But we were also before, for the economy, for the crises, for the migratory explosions. As an American, I can try to describe an event to the Brazilian public, but it will never be like a Brazilian telling a Brazilian. I am not saying only for the knowledge of the language, but for the choice of words, the perception of sounds and smells. The whole experience. And that’s essential for good journalism.
I know there have been a lot of changes in the news industry, and that’s a shame, but crises like the one we’re going through now should be ideal for us to have more cover work on site. The timing of the decrease in the number of corresponding messages in the world is terrible.
What is your opinion of the American media today? Compared to the way you acted during the administration of Donald Trump? There has been a lot of criticism in Trump’s coverage since the 2016 election, when he was treated more like a celebrity and a showman than a politician. Until Trump, reporters weren’t so used to being suspicious of every word a president says. With him already in charge, that changed, and “fact-checking” became necessary with every statement or tweet. I think you woke up late for that. But there is a lot to do, especially in an environment where people only have the “mainstream” press to get information and there is a campaign against it, on social networks, on the “dark web” .
As for Biden’s leadership, there hasn’t yet been a major challenge for the press to be critical. I was amused the other day when I read an article that criticized the number of times Biden has been to Delaware, which is his home, since he took over. Well if the scandals will be at this level now we are much better than before [risos]. Before dealing with charges of sexual harassment on the rise.
You wrote a beautiful book on Sérgio Vieira de Mello (1948-2003). What do you think he would think of the world today? First of all, I believe that he would already be Secretary General of the United Nations. I don’t know if it would be good for him at such a difficult time. I would be concerned about a lot of things, for example, with China’s increased power and willingness to change international human rights rules. He would also be irritated if Donald Trump tried to rewrite these rules or campaign to downplay the efforts of international organizations, as is the case in Brazil, where today there is mistrust of these laws and of the performance of these organizations.
I think this would demonstrate how important the enforcement of these international human rights laws is for the stability of countries and the rule of law. I would be concerned about the excess of nationalism and xenophobia in the United States.
But more than anything, I think he would be very upset that a crisis like that of the coronavirus, which seems to be designed to be fought with international cooperation, instead sees nationalisms grow, making it difficult to arrive. vaccines. countries and communities.
It would demonstrate that there is no scientific collaboration, exchange of expertise, programs to distribute vaccines to countries with fewer resources, not only is it an immoral thing, but it is a policy. stupid that will harm a lot of people.
What should Latin America expect from Biden’s leadership? It is very unusual to have a President of the United States who knows the region so much, and that is very positive. Since the days of the Senate, Biden has traveled a lot and knows a lot. He also knows that our country is linked to the problems of countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. It is mainly from here that so many people flee violence and a precarious financial situation. It will certainly be a very important question.
I also believe that Biden will focus on democracy and human rights and that he will value the issue of preserving the Amazon. He was very positively impacted by Colombia’s gesture, which allowed Venezuelans in their territory to work and have access to rights. I think it will also encourage other countries that welcome Venezuelan immigrants to be welcoming.
Biden does not believe that with a wall or a nationalist policy it will be possible to eliminate the coronavirus. It is also necessary to collaborate with other countries in the region. He wants a welcoming America, without forgetting that it is a nation of laws.
Samantha Power, 50
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer, she served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017, under the leadership of Barack Obama. He is affiliated with the Democratic Party.