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Hailing Their Inner Chiefs

Alumnus Corey Emanuel has written a children's book about a boy who learns what it means to be President

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Surprisingly, many parents and teachers fail to recognize the educational value of this question, which children often tackle with great enthusiasm. Yet prompted in a supportive environment, with genuine interest on the part of the adult, the doctor-lawyer-Indian chief conversation can lead to a rich dialogue about the broader opportunities and responsibilities that come with being a grownup.

That's precisely the dialogue portrayed by Corey Emanuel (M.A. '11) in his new book Can I Be President, Too?: The Journey of Henry Hopeful, published by Mascot Books in November 2012.

Emanuel -- who went by his full name, Corey Emanuel Chapman, during his TC days -- will conduct a book talk and signing for Can I Be President, Too? at Barnes and Noble Booksellers in Brooklyn this coming Thursday, May 16.The bookstore is located at 106 Court Street. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m.  

Emanuel developed the idea for Can I Be President, Too? while he was in New York City working in the Higher Education Division for Pearson, the multinational publishing and education company. He had moved to the city during the 2008 presidential campaign that brought Barack Obama to office. Inspired by the election of the nation's first black president, Emanuel wondered if kids shared his enthusiasm and if they understood what it meant to be President of the United States. "All the adults were talking about it and getting excited about it," he recalls. "I wanted to pen a book that children could relate to, a platform to inspire kids in their career decisions."  

In Can I Be President, Too?, Henry is moved by a school writing assignment to ask himself whether he, too, has what it takes to be President. Henry is indeed hopeful, and also inquisitive, and as he learns more about the responsibilities of the presidency, he imbues readers with the sense that with perseverance, hard work and recognition of responsibility, anything is possible. 

Emanuel says that Can I Be President, Too? is the first in a series of children's stories he's planning that will use "prominent history-makers to connect kids to careers that they haven't considered before or seen in their own homes." His goal is to inspire children to start asking questions about the future. "I want them to ask, -'Can I be an entrepreneur?' -'Can I be an architect?' -'What does that look like?' And to ask it not just about being athletes or celebrities, but also about careers that have been underreported."  

Like his protagonist, Emanuel has also been on a journey to explore different careers. He grew up in Belton, South Carolina and studied business at Erskine College, graduating in 2005. After a hiring freeze put the kibosh on his plans for a career in the pharmaceutical industry, he found a job at a bank, but felt that it wasn't a good fit. "I didn't know what my purpose was, but I knew this was the farthest from where I wanted to be," he says.

In college, Emanuel had served as President of his freshman class and won a Distinguished Service Award. He knew he wanted to do something that helped other people. He took a job marketing K-12 supplemental instruction materials and technology solutions for Pearson in Nashville, Tennessee, and something clicked. "I realized you can have a job that you love, and it can have a purpose," he says.

Still working for Pearson, Emanuel moved to New York City and enrolled at TC to study Communication and Education. "It was important to me to become more grounded in educational research matters."  While in school, he became an editorial intern for Soledad O'Brien at CNN, working on the Black in America and Latino in America franchises. As he refined his editorial skills, Emanuel gained the confidence to think of himself as a writer, and one result is Can I Be President, Too.

Today, Emanuel is a full-time entrepreneur and the CEO of Corey Emanuel Omnimedia, a company devoted to using media and entertainment to educate.  He plans to develop a children's TV show pilot and is co-writing what he calls "a spiritual mother-son cookbook." He also blogs inspirational human interest stories on his website and is planning a "mission trip" to Brazil: "I want to encourage people to live better lives, reach higher, and enjoy everything this life has to offer us."

Published Friday, May. 10, 2013