Picture this: Classes of Japanese students practicing English, reading aloud. What they're reading, with apparent enthusiasm, are the speeches of the new American president. And now picture this: In Aichi, central Japan, a Buddhist monk has been playing the speeches during his temple service.
"The Speeches of Barack Obama" have become big business in Japan.
The book that is selling briskly is a textbook. Written in English with Japanese translations and an accompanying CD, this compilation of the president's campaign speeches (including his victory speech at the Democratic convention) has sold more than 420,000 copies since its November release.
Almost half a million books is huge sales in Japan, where foreign-language publications usually sell less than 20,000 copies, and any book that sells more than 100,000 copies is a solid success.
Japanese publisher Asahi Press is planning a sequel that will include both Obama's and Kennedy's inaugural addresses as well as Lincoln's Gettysburg address.
It could -- and no doubt will -- be argued that this is part of an international "Obama-Mania." Lynn Neary for NPR has a different take: "...our new president is, in the broadest sense of the word, a reader...You actually have both a writer and a reader in the White House.."
Certainly, foreign sales of President Obama's books (including, "The Audacity of Hope" and "Dreams From My Father,") reflect the fascination that the first African-American president has engendered around the world. One could argue that we are also seeing a reflection of international support that has not been with us since 9-11.
This time we might not squander it.
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