Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Part Three, Kenya, Chapter Nineteen: Barack Returns To Home Squared And Learns Of His Father’s Life In Kenya.

November 14, 2011 by
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Barack: Harvard Law Sch0ool

Barack returned to Home Squared after his visit to Alego.  There his paternal granny tells the history of the family from his great grandfather, to his grandfather to his father.

He learns that his paternal ancestors were strong, independent men. His great grandfather was a skillful and disciplined farmer and he learns that his grandfather worked for the British and taught himself to read and write. He also was a cook in Burma during the war to an English Captain.  When he returned to Home Squared he built his own house and cleared his own land and made amends with his father with whom he had become estranged. He taught Barack Sr., his letters and numbers at an early age.

Barack Sr. was a bright boy but willful and independent. He attended grammar school and middle school but he was dismissed before graduating for misconduct. His father was furious at him and sent him to work with an Arab trader on the coast. This didn’t work out and he had problems at other jobs.

However he was befriended by two American teachers in Nairobi. They recognized his potential and urged him to finish his high school education by a correspondence course and said they would write letters of recommendation for him to attend college in the United States.

Barack Sr. took their recommendations seriously and enrolled in a correspondence course and graduated. Then he wrote over thirty letters seeking admission to American colleges. Since he lacked funds he also needed a scholarship and living expenses. After many rejections or non- responses he succeeded in gaining a scholarship to the University Of Hawaii with living expenses.  Afterward he went on to Harvard and obtained a Masters Degree in Economics and returned to Kenya.

His expectation was that he would be among the leaders of a new independent Kenya. However he fell out of favor with Jomo Kenyatta the President of Kenya because of the open criticism he made of the favoritism of the Kikuyu in receiving government posts. Barack Sr.  was a member of the Luo Tribe. However The Kikuyu had suffered more under British rule because their land was in the highlands coveted by the British farmers who immigrated to Kenya.  So this might have played a part in Kenyatta’s thinking.

Later he was hired as a minor bureaucrat but he had spent many years unemployed because Kenyatta blocked him from finding employment in the private sector as well the government.

In the end, a disillusioned man, he turned to alcohol and died early.

Barack Jr. recognized his father as a lonely man, unsupported in his quest to be a leader in Kenya by his father, relatives and other Luo.    He had been estranged from his father who in turn had been estranged from his great grandfather who had gone so far as to travel widely and even embrace Islam.

However Barack implies that he embraced his black identity in Chicago which he now considered home among the blacks of the South Side. Also implied is that he was going to seek out the same leadership goals his father had through that  community.

Why he thought he had to start out a new in Chicago is left unsaid. However he physically had the appearance of a person with black genes and that may have shaped his thinking. Also settling in a major American city located in a major American state, the one time home of Abraham Lincoln,  may have been perceived, consciously or unconsciously as the most likely way to achieve his goal.

However he could have settled in Hawaii with his white mother, Indonesian half sister and his white grandparents just as easily as they were people he grew up with and nurtured him. Also he would have the similar political opportunities as in Illinois where outside the South Side of Chicago the population was predominantly white.

In this respect, going off on his own seems to be a reflection of the way his male ancestors led their lives.

This book was written after he had graduated from Harvard Law School and he had been the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, a distinction that opened many doors for him. This was especially true when he returned to Chicago where he obtained a teaching position at the University of Chicago Law School and had his pick of the cities law firms to join.

In the end he chose to be a leader in government a dream his father also had.



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