Is President Barack Obama joining the tea party movement critical of business-as-usual politics in Washington?
Or is he unaware that his forthcoming children’s book shares its title with an award-winning musical that lampoons government ineptitude and corruption?
Obama’s book “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” due out two weeks after Election Day in November, contains inspirational profiles of 13 great Americans, including George Washington, baseball great Jackie Robinson and artist Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s intended for readers ages 3 and up, and the cover design shows Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia walking their dog.
“Of Thee I Sing” is also the title of a musical by George and Ira Gershwin that opened on Broadway in 1931. The central character is a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-like figure named John P. Wintergreen who runs for president on the “love platform.”
As a political stunt, Wintergreen’s handlers announce that they will stage a beauty pageant and Wintergreen will marry the winner. But by the time the winner is chosen, he has fallen in love with Mary Turner, the young woman running the pageant, and after he wins the election in a landslide, he weds Mary on Inauguration Day.
After several plot twists, Wintergreen narrowly avoids impeachment and the musical ends on an upbeat note.
The musical satirizes political corruption and incompetency. Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidency and the democratic process itself are all targets of the satire, according to the book “Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time” by Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik.
Obama’s book faces a stiff challenge if it’s to match the critical reception of the musical. “Of Thee I Sing” was the first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, in 1932.
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