With Barack Obama ending his 8 year term as President of the United States, and all the media that came with it, I realised that I didn’t know much about the man before the White House.
Knowing that he’d had a few books published, many years before his election campaign, I decided to add these to my reading list to learn about his upbringing and what led him to go into politics.
Published in 1995, Dreams From My Father is Barack’s memoir of his, his parents, and his grandparents backgrounds, and how through through their respective journeys across America he came to be, the son of a white American woman and black Kenyan man.
“My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t end there.
At least that’s what I would choose to believe.”
He describes the struggles with racism both his parents and he faced growing up. It also covers Barack’s observations on people’s attitudes towards him based on his race, as well as his black friends and acquaintances attitude toward white people.
Being of mixed race was something of a struggle, having to hear his friends comments about “white folk” whilst his own mother and grandparents were just that. But then, on the flip side, hearing his Grandmother’s fear of being hassled at the bus stop for money, with his Gramps explaining he thought it was because the offender was black, when he himself could fall into that category.
“I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere.”
As well as the key points on race, which is the key topic running through the book, it was also interesting to learn of Barack’s upbringing. His life in Indonesia, his trip to Africa after his father’s death and stories of meeting his family there.
You’d never think you’d hear the President of the United States talking about how they used to go and smoke weed, and would rather head down to the beach than do their school work.
Knowing this about him, and what motivates him personally, helps to see what shaped a young Barack Obama into future president. And from his experiences it is clear why he made such a good President, as he can see issues from both sides of the line.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
A great insight to the life behind the man, and I will definitely be reading his second book to see how it changed once he got into politics.