Our Views: Barry gets powerful ear

John Barry has gotten a lot of attention today as vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, where he’s spearheaded the authority’s controversial lawsuit accusing nearly 100 energy companies of hurting coastal Louisiana’s ability to handle storm-related flooding.

But Barry is also a nationally known author, and his work as a writer got some renewed attention in a recent Wall Street Journal essay by Tevi Troy about presidential vacation reading.

Troy, who once worked as a White House aide in the George W. Bush administration, mentioned that a president’s summer reading can sometimes have a profound effects on the country. During his presidency, George W. Bush read “The Great Influenza,” Barry’s account of the massive influenza outbreak of 1918. After reading the book, Bush was so moved that he pushed his administration to develop a comprehensive influenza plan, Troy told readers.

Authors can shape events if they find enough readers — or even a handful of influential ones. In landing on George W. Bush’s summer reading list, Barry helped inspire federal health policies that continue to this day.