In David Marniss’s fine book, Barack Obama: The Story, we learn that Obama himself would later reflect on his young adult life and say, once again from the White House: “There is no doubt that what I retained in my politics is a sense that the only way I could have a sturdy sense of identity of who I was depended on digging beneath the surface differences of people” (453). He came to believe that what made sense of life was a sense of commonality, something that was essential to human truth, hopes and passions that reached beyond our differences (453). He says of himself that this thinking is “at the core of who I am” (453). I am not commenting on political ideology in these review blogs, quite intentionally. Yet I must say that I deeply resonate with this self-reflective idea of who I am as a person.
In Obama’s first two serious relationships with girlfriends he wrote that he was avoiding Alex (one of the girls) because, as Maraniss reports, “he was consumed with finding himself” (464). By early 1984 he was deeply involved with his second serious female relationship and was “figuring out his place in the world. Whatever and wherever he would be, it would certainly not involve Business International or anything like it” (487). Business International was one of Obama’s first post-college jobs.
Obama has often lamented that he was born too late because he could not share in the civil rights struggle. He believed that it revealed a struggle rooted in unambiguous righteousness and moral clarity. He would struggle, as Bill Clinton did not struggle so deeply, to embrace an activist future even as he first began to think seriously about politics.
By the time Obama had come to work on the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer, and had begun to embrace the people and communities that he actively worked in, he spoke with more passion about his concerns and often encouraged people by his caring and personal vulnerability. In the words of one who knew him then, “He was great at it