Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dreams from my father

My dear wife, Robin (an American) bought me this autobiography, Dreams from My Father: a story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama, published in 1995, before he entered politics. I loved it. It is a beautifully written and engaging account of Obama's struggle to define his identity. Obama barely knew his Kenyan father, while being brought up by a white mother and grandparents in multi-cultural Hawaii. It is fascinating to read of his experience as a community organizer and activist on the south side of Chicago and the story of how he came to a personal faith and joined a church.

Because of Obama's personal history and struggle he has significant empathy with the needy and down-trodden, he is secure in himself, he honestly sees politics as a means to serve others and make a difference (rather than as a vehicle for self fulfilment), he sees churches as playing a key role in developing communities and being agents of social change, and he is not sympathetic to simplistic ideological "solutions" to deep seated social problems such as poverty and racism.

I found it incredibly encouraging (and still a little unbelievable) that this guy is now president of the U.S.A! A helpful and interesting 1995 review, A Promise of Redemption, of the book is in the New York Times. Finally, the book underscores the significant role that fathers (both present and absent) play in our lives. I consider myself blessed that when my father died last year, I was able to give the eulogy at his funeral. Preparing the text really helped me come to terms with who he was, who I am, and all the joys, blessings, disappointments, and regrets of our relationship.

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