Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dreams From My Father

The best birthday present I got this year was from my mother-in-law. It was Barrack Obama's first book, Dream From My Father. He wrote this book in 1995 after becoming the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
This book is very special because it was written before Barrack became a politician, so lots of what he writes about is stuff he would probably never ever admit publicly today had he not already penned it and published it.
I started reading it a few night ago. I don't read many books, even though I thoroughly enjoy doing it. So getting off my butt and picking the book up took some will power on my part to begin, but the momentum is on now.
The story centers around a young man with a black father and a white mother. His dad is pretty much out of the picture short of the epic tails his parents and grand parents tell him. He remains sort of a mythical and mystical character for much of Barrack's life. Being visually perceived as a black person, he is treated as such, even though when he goes home, and to family reunions, and other events he is surrounded by white people and white culture. Sharing his frustration with prejudice with his other black friends, he is stuck in a conundrum of a confused identity and place in a racist country.
The book is a great window into race problems as they where, as they are, and as they are perceived by minorities. I grew up in a town predominantly uneducated, poor and largely racist black people. The white population had various degrees of education and wealth, but was also predominantly racist. I have experienced racism against me, and against other black first hand and is something I think about often. The chance to have a look at the unique perspective Barrack offers a golden opportunity for those of us who care about race relations.
The other things that makes this book a real gem is that through it all he has become our nations first black president. From the feeling of hopelessness that he felt as a young man, to being granted the most powerful position in the world by the very country that once treated him unfairly is an amazing story.
It would be great if we could have this kind of story out of all of our presidents. A glimpse of the world as they viewed it growing up, written before the censor the politics forces one to put on their own story.
What sorts of problems plagued George Bush I & II, Clinton and Reagan as they grew up? How did their specific experiences influence their politics and outlook on the country and world. What sort of mistakes did they make that as politicians they could not admit to now? The ability to have these answers is an opportunity that no American should pass, regardless of their support for Obama or his policies.