In 1995, Barack Obama granted the memoir Dreams from my father: the story of race and inheritance was published. The former president wrote a novel thirteen years before entering politics, winning the 2008 presidential election and becoming the 44th, and the first black president in the United States. The book exposes his life story from his early years to his graduate degree at the Harvard Law School. The book takes influence from Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man. This essay would continue to examine the roles that Barack Obama explores in the book and how his life as an author has had an influence. Through the memoir, Obama narrates his early life. Barack was born in Honolulu in Hawaii in the year1961, his father Barack Obama senior was of Kenyan origin. He was one of the students on study exchange program where he met Ann Dunham from Kansas. They met at the University of Hawaii and later became the parents of Barack Obama. Their union did not last, they divorced in the year b1964, at this time Obama was two years of age (Obama 20). The father proceeded to Harvard University to pursue a Ph.D. in economics before returning to his country Kenya. In the story, Obama reveals that his father had a promise to his country, which he had to fulfill.
He spent most of his early life with his mother; they lived together with the grandparents before his mother decided to remarry. She got married again to Lolo Soetoro, a surveyor from Indonesia. He was also a student in Hawaii. The family moved to Jakarta before returning to Hawaii. The parents believed that there were better education opportunities in Hawaii than Jakarta (Obama 21). At first, he lived with his grandparents before moving into his mother house. At ten years, both the grandparents and the mother told him many stories about his father; he was told how he formed his father image.
He saw his father in 1971 when he came to visit them for one month. This was the second and last time he was seeing his father. Obama senior had returned to Kenya and remarried. He; later died in an accident in Kenya. Obama learned of his father death through a phone call from his aunt in Kenya (Obama 14). In the narration, Obama reveals the phone call scenario at the origin section of the story before flashing back to his early life.
The conditions under which he grew up, raising by grandparents in Hawaii and later by his parents in Indonesia did prepare him as a black American to live in the American society; racial inequality was the order of the day at that time. His mother homeschooled him with the help of the United States correspondence course (Obama 20). His mother was happy with the was a fast learner. He was taught abought prominent African Americans such as Dr. King Sidney Pointier and Thurgood Marshall among other leaders of the civil rights movement.
His mother sent him back to Hawaii to the grandparents she needed to complete her education in Indonesia. When she came back to Hawaii, she enrolled Barack in Punahou Academy; it was a reputable school. Barrack reveals the challenges he faced at the Academy, one of the challenges was bigotry. Other learners at the institution had the feeling towards him due to his mixed origin. The challenges at school overwhelmed the young Barack; back at home, the family was broken (Obama 24). He resorted to smoking reefers and taking alcohol. He believed these two behaviors would provide him with solace away from the cruel world.
It was during at this time of his life that his father had come to visit him. The length of time that his father stayed in Hawaii enabled him to learn more about him than he knew before. Obama narrates how the prep school had invited his father to speak to the students due to the status he held back in Africa. The speech that his father gave changed the perception of the other children about him. They began to accept him. However, he continued to smoke and drink alcohol. Some of his peers offered him heavy and dangerous drugs, which he declined. Barack stresses that this was the turning point of his life (Obama 32). The decision he made to overcome the temptation to indulge in hard drug, his future would have been destroyed had he used the drugs that his peered offed him.
He was able to settle down in his late teenage. He became a serious student in his studies. He managed to solve the low self-esteem that he had. His mother was instrumental in helping him build the self-confidence. From then on, he became bolder in the way in which he handled everything including his studies (Obama 27). He managed to graduate with honors. He got a scholarship to join the Occidental College in Pasadena, California. He explains that obtaining the scholarship was a major stepping-stone to his academic life.
College life presented similar challenges that he encountered at the prep school; the racial discrimination continued at this level. There was the temptation to use drugs. The level of partying at Occidental College was too much and tempting. He made a decision to transfer from the institution after two years of studying; he joined Columbia University in New York. At this institution, he was able to reunite with his sister Auma Obama. She was from the father second marriage in Kenya. However, Barack does not reveal much information about the marriages and children that his father had.
He was keen on his studies and managed to graduate with honors for the second time. The enrollment at Columbia modeled him into an educated young man. Obama does not provide many details for the next two years of his life after graduating from Columbia. He moved to Chicago in 1985, two years after graduation, where he was engaged in community mobilization. He was involved in community projects, alongside other projects he matured into a liberal activist. At this stage, he had fully overcome the self-pity and the feeling of being less equal that the other members of the society. He narrates that the encouragement he had received from his mother gave him the confidence to conquer all the negative thoughts that came from within himself and from the society.
During his days of activism, he was also involved in the public housing projects; this was one of the largest housing projects in the metropolitan city. Obama established relationships with the local community members including churches, local and state governments, and learning institutions. His involvement in controversial issues in the housing sector landed him in a controversy about asbestos. His diverse opinion on the issue landed him television coverage. During this time Obama narrates that, he managed to invite Mayor Harold Washington to the opening of the Mayor Office of Employment and Training (MET).
During his time in Chicago Obama visited Trinity United Church of Christ. The church became the center of his spiritual life. The history of the church was one of the factors that influenced his decision to stick to the faith of this particular church. During his activists activities and building links with community organizations, he met Reverend Jeremiah Wright who introduced him to Trinity United Church. The African Americans are the dominant majority in this church. The church has an account of the American civil rights movement; the events that occurred during the movement were al reflected in the most preaching of the church.
The successive preachers that ministered in the church had the message of African American liberation, the rights of the black community was the primary message in the service. Reverend Jeremiah Wright who was the reigning church leader at the time Obama joined was one fiery preacher who championed the rights of black people. His teachings were dominated with a message of black liberation. Obama being a victim of racial discrimination in the previous learning institutions and a staunch activist got inspiration from the preaching.
Reverend Wright felt that his message was for the poor, the oppressed members of the society. According to him, he believed that the only way to empower the poor people who were predominantly from the black community. The ideas that he held appealed so much to the congregation, Obama narrates that the message from Reverend Wright sermons was an inspiration to him to rise above the black community tag.
Before he continued his education, he decided to visit Kenya, his father homeland. During his stay bin Kenya, he was able to meet the other members of his family. He narrates how he listened to the stories that his grandmother told him about the history that surrounds the family. The narration goes back to colonialism. The visit to Kenya gave him an opportunity to see his father grave. The reconnection with family identifies Obama as an African American, the difference in the environment in Kenya and the United States the African community welcomed and accepted him, unlike the society where he grew up that was characterized by racial discrimination.
Obama narrates how he joined Harvard law school to study law. His aggression at the law school intensified. He was the first African-American elected president of the Harvard Law review. It was a law journal at Harvard University. His tenure as the head of the journal enabled him to pen some of the concerns of the black community at the institution. He graduated from Harvard law school and moved back to Chicago to practice law. Moving back to Chicago made him reconnect with his Trinity United Church of Christ.
His faith commitments
In his memoir, Obama narrates how meeting Reverend Jeremiah Wright enabled him to establish his Faith at the Trinity United Church of Christ despite his father being a Muslim by faith. As highlighted above the teaching of Reverend Wright was so fiery and touching the congregation in a direct way. The black community believed that their state of suffering and poverty was the outcome of racial inequality among the races in the United States. Most conspicuously was the dominance of the white community in all the sectors of the society.
His affirmation of the belief in God was a step forward to identify with the fellow black community, members who fellowshipped in the same church. The faith of the blacks was founded on the on their aspirations and the black struggle. The faith that Obama joined raises the questions of its role in the championing the role of black people in the United States (Kleinzahler, and Obama). The way of his preaching convinces Obama that the Trinity Church was the right place for him. Reverend Wright was careful of his choice of words in his sermon.
His act of joining the Trinity church that was dominated by the blacks was informed by the desire to belong. Growing up as a young boy from mixed races it was tough for him putting up with the kind of discrimination that he faced in the schools that he attended. The childhood experiences gave him the courage to join Reverend Wright philosophy of equal rights among all races as the only way of improving the poor state of the black community (Kleinzahler, and Obama). He preached this in his sermon each Sunday.
In the memoir, Obama narrates how the frustrations at school that originates from children of white origin drove him into smoking and drinking. Through his mother encouragement, he managed to quit both smoking and alcohol use. The society at that time was full of racial segregation; the whites blackmailed the African Americans. This situation was so touching to Obama as he narrates in his memoir (Kleinzahler, and Obama). Find a team that believes in a just and equal society was a turning point of his religious life. He subscribed to the messages of Reverend Wright sermons.
In his few years of activism and community service, barrack understood the concept of poverty among the black Americans was a phenomenon he encountered in his interaction with the local people. Hearing Reverend Wright stress about it in Sunday sermons gave him hope for a better tomorrow for the black community. The connection that exists between the rights of black people and the Christian faith was the message in Reverend Wright sermons. He managed to package the two together in a manner that black liberation was not only on salvation matters but also on economic issues (Kleinzahler, and Obama). The only way to liberate the communities from the poverty was to restore back their dignity as human beings.
The title of the book talks about a story of race and inheritance, Barack Obama discloses in the book the affiliations that his father had with the Muslim religion. This is about his middle name Hussein.’ However, the connections loosen when he meets Reverend Wright who introduces him to the church. The book is however not clear about what else drove Obama to the church to affirm his faith as a Christian, apart from the equal rights sermons (Obama 20). The other connection that he was able to show was his activities as a community organizer and as an activist. The two roles meant that he was to build a relationship with all the social places including church, schools, and hospitals.
In the early years of his life, Obama does not say the religion where his faith lies. However, after completion of his college studies, he reveals his Christian faith to the readers. Affirming his faith as a Christian and a member of the Trinity church boosted the inner confidence that he already had as activists (Obama 23). On a similar note, as a growing activist and a community organizer, revealing his faith and subscribing to Reverend Wright could put him at a crossroad with people not pleased with the preaching. The church was known as pro blacks with a tough message about racism, the white community who had started respecting Obama could begin drifting away because of the stand.
In conclusion, the book is a nice piece and narrates the life and struggle that Obama went through growing in a society that favored only whites. It narrates his humble beginnings, family, education, community roles, and his faith. Obama was also able to explain his decision to join the Trinity united Church of Christ. Dealing with people reaction to the faith he chose was a risk that Obama took. The story also covers some of the reasons that led him into join the Christian faith and particularly Trinity united Church of Christ that Reverend Wright led. The story also reveals the close relations that Obama had with the Reverend.
Obama, Barack. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. , 2016. Print.
Kleinzahler, August, and Barack Obama. “Dreams from My Father.” The London Review of Books. 29.20 (2007): 8. Print.