Samantha Power was born in London in 1970. She is known for her human rights work as US ambassador to the UN under the Obama administration. Her first book, “A Problem From Hell”, won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.
What’s your earliest memory?
Trying to throw bread to the ducks in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
Who are your heroes?
As a child, I thought what Bob Geldof pulled off with Live Aid was beautiful. JK Rowling is my adult hero because of what she has done for my children: in a world of gadgets and short attention spans, she has made them readers for life.
What was the last book that changed your thinking?
I hope that every book changes my thinking, at least a little. In Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe’s gripping and deeply humane storytelling shines a light on the individuals whose lives were irrevocably altered by the Troubles. The book is also very well-timed.
Which political figure do you look up to?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt led an isolationist America into battle against Hitler’s forces and dramatically expanded the social safety net for Americans. He also didn’t hold back Eleanor, who did essential work to advance the cause of human dignity at home and abroad.
What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?
Baseball statistics from 1979 forward and, though I’m very rusty, break-dancing.
In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?
The late 1960s in London, where my Irish parents lived briefly. I would have liked to see my dad, who died when I was 14, light up the pub scene with his piano-playing, and my mother studying medicine, playing squash and taking in plays in the West End.
What TV show could you not live without?
Who would paint your portrait?
My seven-year-old daughter, Rían.
What’s your theme tune?
I guess this is the same as one’s “walk-up song” in baseball? Probably Snap!’s “The Power” – with the single memorable lyric “I’ve got the power…” – or Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Never compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.” I’m still trying.
What’s currently bugging you?
The shamelessness and cruelty of Donald Trump, and the enabling of him by so many who know better.
What single thing would make your life better?
The resounding defeat of Trump (and a crippling blow to Trumpism) in 2020.
When were you happiest?
Two hours before my wedding in Waterville, Kerry, Ireland, playing soccer in the drizzle with my closest friends and family, and it hitting me, “I’m going to get to be married to the most interesting person in the world!”
In another life, what job might you have chosen?
Are we all doomed?
The late psychologist Amos Tversky once said he preferred optimism because “when you are a pessimist and the bad thing happens, you live it twice”. My basic view is: we will get the fate we work for.
“The Education of an Idealist” by Samantha Power is published by William Collins
This article appears in the 25 Sep 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The great disgrace