After his campaign inspired young voters to put down their iPhones and head to the voting booths, Barack Obama was elected president Nov. 4, 2008. Exactly a year later, Skyhorse Publishing released the book “Generation Change” to remind Americans that hope shouldn’t fade with election hype.
“Change is really such a strong and powerful word,” said Melissa Bolton-Klinger, co-author of the book. “We wanted to make sure it didn’t become something that just sort of fell by the wayside.”
Bolton-Klinger, a writer and director of commercials and public service announcements for TV networks and nonprofit organizations, wrote the book with Jayan Kalathil, her co-worker at VH1. Kalathil’s background is in marketing and public affairs.
“We would always talk about working on things on our own,” Kalathil said. “At a company, you have to work on issues that are important to the company, so this was a chance for both of us to be able to take a step back and throw a wider net out there.”
The finished product is a compilation of 150 ways to change ourselves, our country and our world, written in a conversational tone. Following each section is a list of additional resources readers can explore.
“We wanted to give kind of a turnkey approach to people, so give them quotes, give them Web sites, give them movies or TV shows, to kind of get people thinking,” Kalathil said.
Every quote in the book is President Obama’s, and Bolton-Klinger said they are meant to inspire.
“I think that’s what he does really well,” she said. “He had the ability to bring together a lot of people very quickly because of the way he speaks. For me, his words are so strong.”
The title of the book alludes to the president, as well. “We wanted to use a title that kind of harkens back to the president’s campaign but also sort of spoke to the younger demographic,” Kalathil said. “The phrase ‘Generation Change’ is sort of a play on the Obama generation.”
The Obama generation is anyone who has been inspired by his political campaign or presidency, Kalathil said.
Despite the book’s focus on a Democratic president, it presents issues relevant to both parties.
“Obviously, it helps if you read the book if you’re a fan of the president,” Kalathil said. “But I don’t think that any of the issues we bring up are issues that the average American would find controversial. We talk about [everything from] traveling the world to flossing your teeth.”
“Flossing — that’s bipartisan,” Bolton-Klinger said.
Other topics include learning how to cook, adopting a pet, meeting neighbors and turning off technology.
“I think technology is great, and I love my BlackBerry in the same way everyone else does,” Kalathil said. “But it can be all-consuming if you don’t take a moment once in a while to unplug, to reconnect with people face to face … and have those human relationships rather than texting one another, writing on each other’s walls, or tweeting all the time.”
The authors emphasize the importance of balancing technology with real-world experiences, but they also acknowledge the Internet as a vehicle for change.
“Technology opens the doors to allowing us all to make a difference,” Kalathil said.
One organization the book mentions, called Nothing But Nets, enables Internet users to donate $10 on nothingbutnets.net to buy a malaria net for someone in Africa.
“That’s the price of a lunch or a dinner or a drink at a bar, and you’re providing a life-saving gift to somebody with the click of a mouse,” Kalathil said.
The book lists numerous other Web sites that cover a wide range of issues, from human rights to the environment. But Kalathil said it is important to focus attention toward one thing that sparks an interest.
“I think it’s hard sometimes when you think, ‘These problems are so big. What can I really do?'” he said. “I think really it’s just a matter of learning more, educating yourself on an issue that speaks to you, and jumping in.”
Bolton-Klinger also advised starting small. “If you take on too much, you’re going to get overwhelmed, and you’re going to want to give up,” she said. “Change takes time … just try to keep the faith. We do make a difference. Sometimes it may feel like you don’t, but you do.”