Monday, August 20, 2012

Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father 4: Turning Points

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.

Obama 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.

Obama's girlfriend 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 grandmother.")

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