Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father

I decided that I needed to vote for Barack Obama for president because (a) all of my friends in Cambridge want to vote for him, and (b) he seems to make people feel good (like Reagan, but without the tax cuts).  I thought that maybe it would be good to learn at least one thing about the guy before casting my vote, so I listened to Dreams from my Father as a book on tape.

What did I learn?

Obama’s main concerns through the period covered in the book seem to be black/white relations and preserving Rust Belt jobs and neighborhoods.  As far as Obama is concerned, if you were to take an overdose of tanning pills and your skin turned dark, your whole world would be so dramatically changed as to become unrecognizable.  No employer would want to hire you, regardless of your skills, experience, and education.  White people would avoid you on the street for fear that you would mug them.  You would sit down and write a book called “black like me” or something similar.

These are rather surprising preoccupations for a guy who hardly ever saw a black person in his household and who grew up in Hawaii, as far away from America’s Rust Belt as an American could possibly get.

So… if you think that the main problems afflicting America are how white people feel about black skin and how to keep high-paying blue collar jobs in the greater Chicago area, Obama is definitely your candidate.

15 thoughts on “Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father

  1. I have to admit, I have not read the book.

    However, another thing that seems very important to him is…making fuel from corn, even if no one who isn’t a mid-western farmer / politician seems to think it does any good at all, and in fact uses more oil than oil…but it is a message of hope: “we can grow our way out of oil dependency!”

    I guess with this post you’ve proven that you’re not hoping to become the next president of Harvard, huh Phil? 😉

  2. Please read Obama’s Audacity of Hope. It reviews all the basic national policies he thinks are important. Race is one of them, but far from the only one.

  3. Well, the guy grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, where race is a pretty nuanced thing. Then as a young adult he lived in NYC, Chicago, and Cambridge: places where, at the time, jobs were scattering and race relations were awful. Given his background it must have been even more galling than to a “native” big-city black American. And when (1994) and where he wrote that book, how black people and manufacturing workers were being treated really were two of the most important issues around. Also, in the past 12 years a lot of other issues have come to the fore, but it’s not as if problems of race and jobs have gone away.

    Phil, what did you think the two most important issues facing America in 1994 were? I’ll bet it wasn’t terrorism or Iraq.

    (Disclaimers: I have not read the book myself. I lived two blocks from Obama in Chicago in the 1990s but I didn’t know him. I don’t know which candidate I will support since the primaries are still several months away.)

  4. Based on what little I’ve seen of Obama’s debate and speeches he impresses me as sharp and sincere but far too much a politician rather than the kick-ass problem solving juggernaut the country needs right now. Of course nobody else in the field is a great problem solver either, because we don’t elect people rationally, we elect them for looks, attitude, and alignment with out own feeble sets of irrational priorities.

  5. There is nothing special about Obama.

    Obama is, for the most part, no different than Edwards or Hillary. With minor exceptions, they all say pretty much the same thing. The only major difference is packaging.

    They call for higher taxation, universal health care, stricter governmental regulation of all industry and business, and the continuation of United States interference/intervention. This constant intervention and central planning causes more problems than it solves. It’s more and more like socialism and communism than captialism and free market.

    Forget political parties, for get left and right, forget liberal and conservative– These are all divisive notions that help no one. As a country, the United States needs to get away from partisanship and focus on the candidates and their message.

    The only honest men with honest messages in this presidential reace are Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel. I would ask anyone that reads this to research those men.

  6. B Reyes:

    The reality of the electoral process is that it is pointless, and sometimes even counterproductive, to vote for a candidate who is in such a minority position. I wonder if the Founding Fathers anticipated the kind of situation we have now?

    I do agree with your comment on the divisive labels. Such labels seem more designed to create imaginary enemies than to describe any real characteristics any more.


  7. Obama is a world-class politician who, while coming across as being a sincerely nice guy, never seems to make a stand on any controversial issues without leaving himself a convenient exit ramp.
    This is a facinating time in our country’s history and it will high drama come next spring/summer for both parties.
    For what it’s worth, I had an epiphany yesterday as I sat in my living room and gazed at the water (I live on Smith Mountain Lake in southern Virginia).
    Obama will not get the Democatic nomination, Hillary Clinton will.
    And in the end, women will simply not vote for her.

  8. I want to know if his religion is Muslum and if he practices his religion to the fullest. What people are saying is that the Muslum religion believes that all people who do not believe in the Muslum religion must die. And the very people that plowed into our twin towers in NY were law abiding citizens living next door to us. I love the guy, but this kind of disturbs me. Any sources on this subject?

  9. There is something else about Barak Obama that nobody is mentioning here. Imagine how smart and tough one should be to come from a single parent family, being man of color, and yet accomplishing so much at such a young age. I saw a very summarizing bumper sticker recently – “republicans or democrats – same shit, different piles”. I personally don’t feel about Barak Obama that he is “same shit”. I think that he has better chance than others to inspire and unite all races, religions, majorities and minorities in making all of us feeling different about ourselves. We, as a country, should be embarrased that our president is 50/50 electied, with skillful manipulation of the system. I hope and think that Barak Obama is not this case.

  10. If we made it through 8 years of George “W” Bush, we can make it through whatever Obama, Hillary, or Mccain can hand us. Either way it is a giant step forward. We’ll get through it.
    I truthfully can’t blame it all on “W”, but his administration is the worst ever.
    It will be good to have a president that doesn’t come across as stupid, or tries to be funny with it.
    It’s like we have been living a Chevy Chase movie.

  11. Barack Obama is an intelligent man and he is what we need. I am so sick of Hilary Clinton-Her campaining has sunk to an all time low- her attacks are pitful-a Black man is on the verge of winning the most coveted position that has always been occupied by whites, and she is threatend and intimitaded, but just to hard-headed to admit. He will be the president of the United States! This Jeremiah Wright issue is so blown out of proportion- Barack is not responsible for the comments Wright makes, and it is sickening how the media tries to cement these two together. John Mcain is too old to be running for president- I don’t care if he was in the army or not

  12. In response to the original blog: I have recently read _Dreams from my Father_. If you want to get a more up-to-date account of his position on national issues, please read _ The Audacity of Hope_. _Dreams from my Father_ is a different kind of book. It was written in a different period of his life, possibly before he ever saw himself running for president. It was written before 9/11, which was a completely different political world. He wrote the book after he was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review and was therefore expected to write a book about his opinion on racial issues. The book started out as focusing on race and the law, but quickly changed into a book about his personal memoirs dealing with race. “The preface to the 2004 edition” is very helpful in explaining the circumstances in which _Dreams from my Father_ was written.

  13. I happen to be half way through “Dreams from my Father,” at the moment. I must agree with R-chan, that the preface added to the 2004 edition, was very helpful in preparing me to grasp the historical context of this book.

    The book’s main theme is, the inner journey to achieving identity _more specifically racial identity _a normal part of human development.

    The version of Barak this book depicts, is very young, starting at age six. So, he is understandably tentative and not to be confused with his current 47 year old version.

    However, I find his story fascinating. He was raised in a white household. As a baby, the faces he mirrored were different than his own, which, if anything, explains his lengthy struggle with racial identity. Those of us who raised adopted kids of different ethnic backgrounds than our own, know a thing or two about that type of struggle.

    Curiously, before I started to read this book, I was under the impression that Barak had been raised mostly abroad. However, now I know that, this is not so.

    Barak was in Indonesia for only 4 years _ from age 6 to 10. I personally think that his experience abroad is a plus for him. Contrast Obama with our current culturally deprived administration and George W. Bush miss calculation in Iraq. Imagine, how things might turn out had Bush known that what motivates an American will not necessarily motivate an Iraqi.

  14. I am listening to the audio book, read by Obama himself. I would highly recommend it. I think he’s a very skilled writer (I’m sure not all those speeches were written by spin doctors), who has a personal history worth making public. Because he is also very honest (or at least he appears to be) about all nuances in his own feelings and thoughts, the story doesn’t get overly sensational or cliche. However, having it read by Obama is a real bonus. He has a pleasant voice and it adds to the feeling of being allowed in his very personal sphere. Furthermore, he occasionally does the voices of the people he has written about, which is sometimes hilarious. I’m Dutch, but if I were American, I would have definitely voted for this guy!

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