Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dreams from My Father

Over the past week, I have been devouring Barack Obama's memoir entitled Dreams from My Father. This is an appropriate week, or should I say day, to blog about it since he is accepting his nomination for the Democratic Party tonight to possibly be the next president of the United States of America.

One way that I learn information very well is through writing. This memoir was the best source in my opinion because he wrote it himself. He chronicles the beginning of his life, from when he was young and his father left, up until he works as an organizer in Chicago and goes off to Africa for a summer before he heads off to Harvard to study law. A lot of material about his life and upbringing is all in there.

What interested me in the book? I liked to see where he came from. He was born and raised in Hawaii by an interracial couple: his mother was white and his father was black, from Africa actually. Barack's father, whom he is named after, returned to Africa when Barack was little for he was only staying briefly in the United States for education. He eventaully went off to Harvard after that brief marriage, then returning to Africa. Barack was raised by a single white mother who had two African American children (during the Civil Rights Movement era) and his two white grandparents from the working class.

Barack gets a lot of his devotion to assist and aid middle class from growing up around it, especially from his mother and grandparents. When he eventually went off to Chicago and organized, he dealt entirely with middle and lower class folks in order to better their situations. He focused a lot on education, churches, and housing projects to try to improve their situations. Eventually, he ends up back in Illinois to become a senator.

His father has a very interesting story though. He is from Kenya, the city of Nairobi, and he was married with two children before he left for America to eventually meet Barack's mother. They then wed there, and she would not return with him back to Africa since violent uproars were consistent in the country at that time. He went off to Harvard and headed back to his hometown where he wedded more brides and had more children. He worked for the government for a while before he lost that job and held odd end jobs. This sent him into a depression, becoming an alcoholic and eventually dying before Barack and him got the chance to truly know one another. Over the years, they sent each other letters to get to know one another, but they only met seldomly when Barack was a child. He always emphasized the importance of education to Barack, to focus on studies to get ahead in life. That seems to have followed through in his life.

At the end of the memoir, Barack heads to Kenya to meet his siblings and relatives. It's truly a beautiful experience to read about, and the culture is so different that it is interesting to read about. As I said before, Barack's father had many wives which is acceptable in that country. It was only when the white men came to the country that they ever questioned what they were doing. The ideal is to spread the man's name, to produce children and build a prosperous plot of land with huts and farmland. They were introduced to Western clothing, weapons, food, cars, and religion with the coming of the white man, and then they began to question themselves.

I really love how honest Barack is in this book. He openly talks about expirementing with drugs and alcohol, partying, women, and his later full-on dedication into work where work was all his life. I think that is an admirable quality in a person--be honest. Don't hide who you are. Pretending is just terrible.

Barack talks a lot about race in the memoir as well, especially since this memoir is devoted to not only discovering his family but his roots, his race, coming to terms with who he is in an oppressive and racist country. I'm impressed how far he's come after battling with this struggle. Sometimes he almost felt like he was cheating since he grew up in Hawaii and was raised by whites. This still doesn't hide his heritage and other roots as well.

The Audacity of Hope, another one of his books, is mentioned in this memoir. It comes from a sermon he heard before he left Chicago. It derives from a painting called Hope. The overall message in the sermon is: "There's a bright side somewhere...don't rest until you find it" (294). Those few pages are very interesting. Check them out.

I am going to put down some passages and lines that I found really inspiring and interesting. Let's see what you think:

"A healthy dose of guilt never hurt anybody. It's what civilization was built on, guilt. A highly underrated emotion" (96).

"My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn't, couldn't end there" (111).

"How could we judge other men until we stood in their shoes?" (117).

"That was my idea of organizing. It was a promise of redemption" (135).

"If everyone is family, then no one is family" (347).

"A man can never be too busy to know his own people" (377).

"We must get on with our lives" (382).

And lastly, I love that Barack announced that he was going for change back in 1983 when he started organizing in Chicago (133). He has stuck with his pledge and his goal for over twenty years and he continues to go for it. He did not just pick a slogan to win over the American people; he has been striving for this since he got started in his drive to help others. This is one reason that I truly stand behind this man and believe whole-heartedly in him.

What did you think of the memoir Dreams from My Father or Barack's life story?

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