Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Barack Obama - Dreams from My Father

Barack Obama

Dreams from My Father

“For we are strangers before them,
and sojourners, as were all our fathers.


ALMOST A DECADE HAS passed since this book was first published. As I mention in the original
introduction, the opportunity to write the book came while I was in law school, the result of my election as
the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. In the wake of some modest publicity, I
received an advance from a publisher and went to work with the belief that the story of my family, and my
efforts to understand that story, might speak in some way to the fissures of race that have characterized the
American experience, as well as the fluid state of identity-the leaps through time, the collision of cultures-
that mark our modern life.
Like most first-time authors, I was filled with hope and despair upon the book’s publication-hope that
the book might succeed beyond my youthful dreams, despair that I had failed to say anything worth saying.
The reality fell somewhere in between. The reviews were mildly favorable. People actually showed up at the
readings my publisher arranged. The sales were underwhelming. And, after a few months, I went on with
the business of my life, certain that my career as an author would be short-lived, but glad to have survived
the process with my dignity more or less intact.
I had little time for reflection over the next ten years. I ran a voter registration project in the 1992
election cycle, began a civil rights practice, and started teaching constitutional law at the University of
Chicago. My wife and I bought a house, were blessed with two gorgeous, healthy, and mischievous
daughters, and struggled to pay the bills. When a seat in the state legislature opened up in 1996, some
friends persuaded me to run for the office, and I won. I had been warned, before taking office, that state
politics lacks the glamour of its Washington counterpart; one labors largely in obscurity, mostly on topics
that mean a great deal to some but that the average man or woman on the street can safely ignore (the
regulation of mobile homes, say, or the tax consequences of farm equipment depreciation). Nonetheless, I
found the work satisfying, mostly because the scale of state politics allows for concrete results-an
expansion of health insurance for poor children, or a reform of laws that send innocent men to death row-
within a meaningful time frame. And too, because within the capitol building of a big, industrial state, one
sees every day the face of a nation in constant conversation: inner-city mothers and corn and bean farmers,
immigrant day laborers alongside suburban investment bankers-all jostling to be heard, all ready to tell their
A few months ago, I won the Democratic nomination for a seat as the U.S. senator from Illinois. It was
a difficult race, in a crowded field of well-funded, skilled, and prominent candidates; without organizational
backing or personal wealth, a black man with a funny name, I was considered a long shot. And so, when I
won a majority of the votes in the Democratic primary, winning in white areas as well as black, in the
suburbs as well as Chicago, the reaction that followed echoed the response to my election to the Law
Review. Mainstream commentators expressed surprise and genuine hope that my victory signaled a
broader change in our racial politics. Within the black community, there was a sense of pride regarding my
accomplishment, a pride mingled with frustration that fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education and forty
years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we should still be celebrating the possibility (and only the

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