When I first read Barack Obama’s unique and eloquent search for his identity through the prism of race, Dreams of My Father, I was powerfully taken with his story. President Obama was just 21 when he realized that any chance he had to truly know his long-lost father had passed. When the phone rang to relay the bad news from a half world away, he was in a New York tenement on the border of East Harlem, “smelling eggs burn in the kitchen, staring at cracks in the plaster, trying to measure my loss.”
Imagine that — if you can. President Obama went on to find his True North in his family and his country — a lucky stroke for those of us who love and admire him.
When I was a little boy, as I was just learning to crawl and recognize letters, I noticed a collection of fine red leather books that my father would take from the shelf from time to time to leaf through. I remember him dozing on a couch with one of these red books in his lap. I found these books years later, and realized that they were a collection penned by a single author, Winston Churchill, an allied architect of the Second World War, who helped save the world as we know it. This was a man my father admired and honored. When I hear that name to this day, I stop and listen, so as to glean whatever I can about him. My father wouldn’t waste his time on an unworthy character, so neither will I.
Someday, I am quite sure, my grandchildren will stumble upon a treasure of books written by the former President of the United States, Barack Obama. They will know, in their heart-of-hearts, that their grandfather wouldn’t waste his time on an unworthy character, so neither should they. “This is a man my grandfather admired and honored,”they will think, quieting the world around them to hear what they can hear.
That is how the world of words and ideas are passed through the ages, from generation to generation, in those that love and trust us to do right by them, forever and always.