“America has an opportunity to step back into history as a nation with a new understanding of how to improve upon the world we made. To do so, we have to re-create an identity that draws on our better history as a nation of outsiders, reflexively distrustful of power, joined together to do big things, united by a set of principles that allows each of us to be whoever we want to be regardless of tribe. After the fall, we must determine what it means to be American again.”
Why is democracy so threatened in America and around the world? And what can we do about it? A former White House aide and close confidant to President Barack Obama—and the New York Times bestselling author of The World as It Is—travels the globe in a deeply personal, beautifully observed quest for answers.
In 2017, as Ben Rhodes was helping Barack Obama begin his next chapter, the legacy they had worked to build for eight years was being taken apart. To understand what was happening in America, Rhodes decided to look outward. Over the next three years, he traveled to dozens of countries, meeting with politicians, activists, and dissidents confronting the same nationalism and authoritarianism that was tearing America apart. Along the way, a Russian opposition leader he spoke with was poisoned, the Hong Kong protesters he came to know saw their movement snuffed out, and America itself reached the precipice of losing democracy before giving itself a second chance.
Part memoir and part reportage, After the Fall is a hugely ambitious and essential work of discovery. In his travels, Rhodes comes to realize how much America’s fingerprints are on a world we helped to shape, through our post–Cold War embrace of unbridled capitalism and our post-9/11 nationalism and militarism; our mania for technology and social media; and the racism that fueled the backlash to America’s first Black president. At the same time, Rhodes learns from the stories of a diverse set of characters—from Barack Obama himself to Cuban rebels to a rising generation of international leaders—that looking squarely at where America has gone wrong makes clear how essential it is to fight for what America is supposed to be, for our own country and the entire world.
“More than any other White House memoirist, Rhodes is a creature of the man he served.”
— The New Yorker
“A classic coming-of-age story, about the journey from idealism to realism, told with candor and immediacy... [Ben Rhodes’s] achievement is rare for a political memoir: He has written a humane and honorable book.”
— The New York Times Book Review
“Insightful, funny, and moving, this is a beautifully observed, essential record of what it was like to be there.”
— Samantha Power
Ben Rhodes is a writer, political commentator, and national security analyst. He is currently a contributor for NBC News and MSNBC; co-host of Pod Save the World; a senior advisor to former President Barack Obama; and chair of National Security Action, which he co-founded with Jake Sullivan in 2018. From 2009-2017, Ben served as a Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. In that capacity, he participated in all of President Obama’s key decisions, and oversaw the President’s national security communications, speechwriting, and public diplomacy. He led the secret negotiations with the Cuban government that resulted in the effort to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, and supported the negotiations to conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made, and The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House. His work has also been published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Foreign Affairs. Ben serves on numerous boards, including Legacies of War, The Ploughshares Fund, and consults for The Obama Foundation. A native New Yorker, Ben has a B.A. from Rice University and an M.F.A from New York University.