Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Part Two, Chicago, Chapter Fourteen. Meeting Reverend Wright: The Audacity Of Hope Sermon: Acceptance to Harvard Law: Adieu To Chicago.

September 23, 2011 by
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Barack, after securing assistance from the Catholic Churches in his organizing area, decides to make a more dedicated effort to recruit 50 Protestant Churches to support his projects. During this campaign a number of clergymen suggested that he talk to Reverend Jeremiah Wright a powerful and legendary pastor who had built his church from almost no members into the thousands. He was not only legendary on the Southside but also controversial. Some of his sermons would be used against Obama later when he ran for president. One statement in particular that would follow Reverend Wright and later his –parishioner Barack Obama was “Not God bless America but Goddamn America.” Despite this fiery rhetoric some of his fellow pastors saw his church as a Buppie congregation because of the number successful blacks who attended yet had moved from the Southside. However when Barack first met Rev. Wright he was not yet willing to join his church or any church. That came later when he returned as a lawyer and married Michelle.

In this chapter Barack talks a lot about faith and while he doesn’t come right out and say it he seems to be one of those who come down on the side of reason rather than revelation.

He is preparing Johnnie the other organizer he is mentoring to take over his duties as he discloses that he has been admitted to Harvard Law School. While his friends and colleagues see this as a way to escape the realities of the Southside, Father Will believes he will be back. Barack also discloses to the reader that his reason for going to law school was to understand the levers of power and how to use them. He believes that this will make him more effective in his community work.

Barack says little about his decision to go to an Ivy League law school. He applied to Stanford and Yale as well as Harvard and others. Nothing is said about who may have counseled him on this move nor does he discuss the application process which takes months. One has to have very good under graduate grades as well as a very high score on the LSAT in addition to letters of recommendation from former professors and employers to gain admission. He probably wrote an admissions essay on his reasons for wanting a legal education also. It would have been nice to see those documents included in this book as an appendix.

Implicit in his decision to go to law school and “learn how to work the levers of power” is the conclusion that community organizing is seeking change from the bottom up and the real power for change lies in the city, county and state governments who make the rules and appropriate and distribute the funds for change from the top down.

Like Reverend Wright he sees that successful Blacks often leave the Southside Black Community which is disintegrating. Wright believes that is detrimental to the preservation of the Black heritage.  Even Mary, his coworker at Father Will’s church who is raising two mixed race daughters by herself, is upset and asks “Why do you men always pickup and leave.”

Harold Washington dies suddenly and there is no other Black politician of sufficient stature to take his place. Thus creating further inroads into the fabric of the Black community both he and Reverend Wright are trying to strengthen and preserve, each in their own way.

Before he leaves, he hears Reverend Wright’s sermon on the “Audacity Of Hope” based on the story of Hannah from the Book Of Samuel. She is barren and taunted by her rivals. However she has not lost hope and still prays to her God for a better day. Rev. Wright compares this to those who survived Hiroshima, The Sharpville Massacre, The Black experience from slavery to the present and all people who found themselves in hopeless circumstances but through their faith refused to give up hope in the face of doom.

Barack sees that the congregation is deeply moved by this sermon and that their spirits are revived and replenished to carry on despite a bitter past. The sermon has moved Barack to tears and the little boy sitting next to him offers him a tissue.

This sermon struck a chord deep in Barack because we know that he entitled his second book the Audacity Of Hope and called his Keynote speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004 the Audacity of Hope.

He leaves for Kenya, no longer a novice in the realities and ways of the World, to meet his relatives before going on to Harvard to acquire the knowledge to make himself a more effective leader.

Barack seems to have a conscious or subconscious prescient knowledge of his destiny.



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