As a gay man reading Barack’s Obama first book “Dreams from My Father” I found myself intrigued by how much of his life’s story seemed familiar. Although on the surface Barack’s life couldn’t be more different from mine. Born on Hawaii, early childhood memories of Indonesia, college in Los Angeles, a brief period in New York and eventually settling in Chicago. How can this story be similar to growing up in a small Bavarian town in southern Germany?
It is Barack’s experience as an outsider, of being the only black child in a white family, of feeling different from the people he is supposed to be closest to, his mother and grandparents that made me empathize so much with him. While I started out reading Barack’s second book “The Audacity of Hope” it was his first book that spoke most strongly to me. His story is my story. A story of discovery, of searching for a history outside of himself, travelling as far as Africa to look for answers and finally finding the true answer in the only possible place, himself.
Barack tells an honest story, that doesn’t shy away from the parts that a weaker man, someone less clear of who he is, might have edited out. His teenage dabbling in drugs and lack of direction. His longing to find “his people” only to realize that sharing the same skin color does not make for a tribe, let alone shared goals and values. There are so many different ways of being, and what we look like, or whom we love is at best a start to figuring out who we are.
I won’t try to repeat the story of his first journey to Kenya to reconnect with his father’s family. He recounts his struggle to hold on to the inspiration derived from his only meeting with his father while reconciling it with the reality of the man who tragically failed under his own ambitions. How can he live up to the talents inherited from his parents and make them his own, become his own man? Barack writes eloquently and with deep insight about his experience. Reading his books has made me not only comfortable, but excited, to vote from him on Tuesday. In the California primaries, back in February I voted for Hillary. I liked the idea of a woman becoming president and had fond memories of the Clinton presidency. I knew next to nothing about this Senator from Illinois.
It is hard for me to imagine that you don’t know today who to vote for on Tuesday. If you want to know what kind of man Barack is, read his first book. If you want to know what kind of president he wants to be, read his second book. I know who I want to be the next president of the United States, not because he is “the democrat” but because he is the right man at the right time to begin a new chapter in our American history.