Presentation on theme: "Barack Obama Dreams from My Father. Barack Obama? Birth information – Born in Hawaii, 1961 – Mother white, father black Political life – President – Was."— Presentation transcript:
Barack Obama Dreams from My Father
Barack Obama? Birth information – Born in Hawaii, 1961 – Mother white, father black Political life – President – Was US Senator Education – Lawyer, attended Harvard
Dreams from My Father Background – Attended Harvard Law school – 1 st black editor for Harvard Law Review (90) – Contracted to write book on race relations (91) – Book morphs into memoir – Published 1995
Dreams from My Father 33 years old when published Not written as a “campaign starter” Views self as emblematic of race relations – Is a literal, not typical African American
Post-1991 One year to write book Teaches law at University of Chicago Works as civil rights lawyer Elected to Illinois state senate Addresses Democratic National Convention 2004 Elected to US Senate 2005
Dreams from My Father Three sections – Origins (Hawaii, Indonesia & Calif.) – Chicago – Kenya
Hawaii Mother from Kansas Marries Kenyan student in Hawaii Father leaves for Harvard, then Kenya Mother remarries later, Indonesian Moves to Indonesia 1967, 4 years Obama returns to Hawaii for school, lives w/ grandparents
Hawaii Meets father Xmas 1971 Attends high school in Honolulu Attends college in So. California, Father dies in auto accident, 1982
Origins 1 st chapter: white grandparents 2 nd chapter: life in Indonesia 3 rd chapter: return to Hawaii, father’s visit 4 th chapter: high school years 5 th chapter: college years 6 th chapter: living in NYC
Chicago Works as community organizer – Thoughts on race relations – Victories and defeats Search for group to belong to – As a black, as a person, as spiritual being Visit from African brother and sister – Separate visits to US
Kenya Quits as community organizer Plans to attend Harvard Visits Kenya first… Father had 3 other wives – Older brother and sister – 2 younger brothers (one dead) – 2 younger brothers (parentage uncertain)
Kenya Goals – Meet extended family – Discover his father End: – Finds father’s grave
Dreams At night I would close the door to my room, telling my grandparents I had homework to do, and there I would sit and wrestle with words, locked in suddenly desperate argument, trying to reconcile the world as I’d found it with the terms of my birth. But there was no escape to be had. In every page of every book, in Bigger Thomas and invisible men, I kept finding the same anguish, the same doubt; a self-contempt that neither irony nor intellect seemed able to deflect. Even DuBois’s learning and Baldwin’s love and Langston’s humor eventually succumbed to its corrosive force, each man finally forced to doubt art’s redemptive power, each man finally forced to withdraw, one to Africa, one to Europe, one deeper into the bowels of Harlem.
Dreams Only Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different. His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order
Dreams (Malcolm X) spoke of a wish he’d once had, the wish that the white blood that ran through him, there by an act of violence, might somehow be expunged. I knew that, for Malcolm, that wish would never be incidental. I knew as well that traveling down the road to self-respect my own white blood would never recede into mere abstraction
Dreams Whatever my father might say, I knew it was too late to ever truly claim Africa as my home. And if I had come to understand myself as a black American, and was understood as such, that understanding remained unanchored to place. What I needed was a community…. A place where I could put down stakes and test my commitments.
Dreams I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago—all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brothers’ questions. Their struggle, my birthright.
Audacity of Hope “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”
Harvard "When you are young, your identity is shaped by outside forces as much as internal forces. If you are black and called 'nigger' occasionally, if you listened to Dr. Martin Luther King on TV or saw Malcolm X make a speech, your whole environment starts telling you what you are." Those close to Obama -- tall, reed-thin, soft- spoken -- describe him as a compulsive worker, though they are unsure what it is, at bottom, that has inspired his single-minded concern for social justice.
Types of self-identification Self-made man Shaped by society Shaped by God Defined by self Defined by others Defined by ideology
This semester Mary Jemison Benjamin Franklin Frederick Douglass Harriet Wilson Black Elk P. T. Barnum Ernest Hemingway Sylvia Plath Malcolm X Self-made man Shaped by society Shaped by God Defined by self Defined by others Defined by ideology
Role Model? St. Augustine – Dissolute youth – Conversion experience – Life finds a purpose
St Augustine I threw myself down somehow under a certain figtree, and let my tears flow freely. Rivers streamed from my eyes, a sacrifice acceptable to you and (though not in these words, yet in this sense) I repeatedly said to you: 'How long, O Lord? How long, Lord, will you be angry to the uttermost? Do not be mindful of our old iniquities.' For I felt my past to have a grip on me. It uttered wretched cries: 'How long, how long is it to be?' 'Tomorrow, tomorrow.' 'Why not not? Why not an end to my impure life in this very hour?'
St Augustine As I was saying this and weeping in the bitter agony of my heart, suddenly I heard a voice from the nearby house chanting as if it might be a boy or a girl (I do not know which), saying and repeating over and over again 'Pick up and read, pick up and read.' At once my countenance changed, and I began to think intently whether there might be some sort of children's game in which such a chant is used. But I could not remember having heard of one. I checked the flood of tears and stood up. I interpreted it solely as a divine command to me to open the book and read the first chapter I might find.
St Augustine There I had put down the book of the apostle when I got up. I seized it, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: 'Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts'. I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.