Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father 6: Community Organizer

In my latest reading of Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama talks about his time as a community organizer in Chicago.

He talks about the different perspectives and the personality conflicts.  Some did not feel that community organizing was necessary because Chicago now had an African-American mayor.  Others, however, thought that community organizing was essential because there were still problems.  One African-American lady thought that a white organizer did not have the African-American community's interests at heart, and that the policies that he advocated would not really work.  The white organizer, meanwhile, felt that the African-American lady didn't like him because she wanted to be the one in charge.

There were Obama's attempts to become effective in his line of work, and Obama is candid about where he failed.  He came across to people as an interviewer and thought that leaving tracts or brochures would launch a successful operation, but the white organizer told him that he should work more at getting at the heart of people's discontent, listening to people, and showing them how community organizing could actually improve their lives.

There were some characters.  One person, Will, just left when he thought that a meeting was boring.  There was fear that he'd be the only one left to run the community organizing operation!

But, at the end of my latest reading, I gained insight into why the community organizers kept on keeping on, notwithstanding the challenges.  And it came from the lips of Will, who told about a time when things were better and children were happier, in contrast to the sadness, anger, and unhappiness of the present.  That inspired Obama, who was asked by a lady why he did community organizing when he did not appear to have a solid religion (at least at the time).  And it taught the lady that her reasons for community organizing and those of Barack were really not so far apart.

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