By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton
Elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review and having a truly unique history, Barack Obama was asked by a publisher to share his story, thus this book.
He was born and spent much of his youth in Hawaii. He spent a year in Washington state and several in Indonesia. Obama’s mother was white and married a Kenyon student studying in Hawaii. Shortly after Obama’s birth, his father left Hawaii to pursue a PhD at Harvard. A divorce followed, and Barack met his father only once, when he was about 10 years old, though they did write occasionally.
Barack Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York, and then worked as a community organizer in Chicago. Much of the book deals with the Chicago experience.
Community organizing, it turns out, is about getting people together to stand up for their rights. Landlords, fix your rentals. Remove the asbestos from our building. Put some of the government agencies on the South Side. Shouldn’t our schools have the same resources as the others?
Working with the churches, the organized institution that encompassed the most people, Obama made every effort was made to draw people together to work for their best interests. This was people-to-people, frustrating-phone-call-after-frustrating-call work; are enough people going to come to this meeting to make the presenter’s time worthwhile, etc.? As it turned out, Obama was quite good at it.
Along the way, he made a discovery that helps explain why Chicago is the way it is today. “… gave me the sense that something different was going on …. in the spring of 1987; … an invisible line had been crossed, a blind and ugly corner turned.… the sense that some, if not more, of our boys were slipping beyond rescue…. You got to be scared of somebody who just doesn’t care. Don’t matter how old they are.”
The theme that runs throughout, though, is Obama’s search for an identity, being of mixed race, raised largely by his grandparents, having a father who was almost a myth, not understanding the American black culture or as a youth why some people tried to whiten their skin. What about Kenya and the relatives there? “Dreams from my Father” takes you on Obama’s journey.
For those who dislike Obama, the book will do nothing to change your mind. For those who admire Obama, as I do, the book offers rare insight into the experience of an African-American seeking to make sense of his mixed-race background.