In my latest reading of Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama talked about his experiences at Occidental College. To me, they seemed to be turning points in his life that made him more mature.
says that he began to notice something at Occidental College: when he
spoke, people listened. He enjoyed the applause that he received, but
he also wanted to find some way to enable his words to make a difference
in the world. But, although he gave a good speech at an anti-Apartheid
rally, he became discouraged that the rally did not make a
difference----that people returned to playing frisbee, and the visiting
trustees did not take the rally seriously.
Regina tried to encourage Obama by telling him that his words can make a
difference, especially when he speaks from the heart. When Obama's
friend Reggie then comes along and brags about a party that he and
Barack had, in which they left a huge mess for the maid to clean up,
Regina is disappointed at Barack. She says that her grandmother could
have been the maid who would have been stuck with that mess! Barack
began to realize that, although he lived as an African-American in a
world that was unfair and racist, that did not exempt him from the rules
of common courtesy.
(UPDATE: According to this article,
which discusses David Maraniss' biography of Barack Obama: "Writing
about his schooldays, Obama created a friend called Regina, a symbol of
the authentic black American experience that Obama yearns for. Maraniss
found, however, that Regina was based on Caroline Boss, a white student
leader at Occidental College. Regina was the name of Boss’s Swiss