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Local College Professor Pens Second Book

Empire State College’s Ian Reifowitz studies national identity, core values

Ian Reifowitz, an associate professor at SUNY Empire State College (ESC) in Old Westbury, recently wrote his second book entitled Obama’s America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, which describes Barack Obama’s “rhetorical attempt to decisively transform our national identity,” according to Reifowitz.

“The book really is about how Obama wants to change our national identity to make it more inclusive, to make it really live up to the values he describes as our core values, so it’s really a study of his language and the way he talks about American national identity,” said Reifowitz, who began teaching at Empire State College in 2002 and lives in Manhattan.

Reifowitz, a native of Smithtown, was once a contestant on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” and is currently the chair of the Long Island Center faculty, which includes members from three ESC locations (Old Westbury, Hauppauge and Riverhead).

“It’s been a really interesting project in elections but it’s also something that motivates me. I want America to succeed, I want America to be a country where people feel like they have something in common and they’re part of a community. Obama talks about us being ‘one American family’ and I think that’s an important phrase,” Reifowitz said.

The author also emphasizes the importance of unity across ethnic lines and the idea of a pluralist democracy, one that’s diverse yet unified.

“We’re not born with American flags stamped on our foreheads. We have to teach our children and one another that we’re Americans – how do we do that? I wanted to apply what I’ve learned from history to the present. When I heard Obama talking, I realized this concept fits nicely with the questions I’ve been dealing with in terms of national identity and multiethnic societies,” Reifowitz explained.

“In this innovative, tightly reasoned and concise work, Ian Reifowitz shows that Barack Obama’s contributions to strengthening America’s understanding of itself as an inclusive society transcend his status as the nation’s first African-American president. Reifowitz brings a bracing dose of optimistic vision to today’s usually dreary and polarized political debates,” said Allan J. Lichtman, author and history professor at American University.

Reifowitz also noted how many countries that reject diversity are often subject to turmoil through wars and conflict.

“You look at the rest of the world and there’s so much fighting and so much bloodshed, and in many cases it has to do with some kind of fundamentalism or religious fundamentalism.

“Obama’s argument is that we can be different but also unified. More important than just tolerance I think is just the sense of oneness where we can be different but we also recognize that we’re part of something larger than our individual selves,” Reifowitz said.

Obama’s America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity is available in most major bookstores and on Visit for more information.