I know Senator Barack Obama has a current bestseller out, but I knew I wanted to read his first book first. And what a book it is!
It was written the year after he finished law school at Harvard, through a grant he received to do just that. He had a hard growing up in many ways, and a hard high school / college time as well – and tells us in this book honestly and simply all about it.
His father was from Kenya, his mother from Kansas. They met in Hawaii, fell in love, got married. His father got a scholarship to work on his doctorate at Harvard, left when Barack was two, and only came back once, when Barack was 10. Barack lived in Indonesia as a child, with his mother, her second husband, and his Indonesian sister.
Barack’s life story really confirms the truth that we need all our experiences to become who we are. Every step, even the most painful, so clearly fits into his becoming the charismatic healer so many people feel he is. His multi-multi-cultural background, the fact that he had a scholarship to attend an upper class private school where he was one of the few African Americans and often angry, his college years, with the same weekends spent drinking and experiencing drugs that we know are common on campuses everywhere – each of those pieces fit so perfectly in creating his life today.
His intelligence and his increasing self-awareness really came to the fore when he became a community organizer in Chicago. That time both taught him and focused him on what role he wanted to take in the world, and led to Harvard. The last part of the book, which really ends just before he goes to law school, is set in Kenya, where much of his family still lives, and is again full of his ability to see all sides of the question, each situation, whiteness, blackness, wealth, poverty. The epilogue ties up many loose ends and lets us know about his wedding, which is a major multicultural event.
What a writer! And what a human being! If the only thing he had ever done with his life was to write this book, he would have already made a tremendous contribution to understanding and growth in this world.
Can’t wait to read The Audacity of Hope!