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Book: Dreams from My Father

Author: Barack Obama
Started: 15 Apr 2007
Finished: 7 May 2007
457p / 23d
20 p/d

On the plane on the way home from Ohio, I finished the first of Obama’s two books. Both were given to me by the DC branch of my family for Christmas. This is *not* the book where he talks about his political beliefs and politics and such. That is the next one. This one instead is about Barack Obama’s search for his own identity and roots.

In any case, I really enjoyed the book. Barack tells a good story. From the confused youth through to trying to find the right ways to make a difference to his search for knowledge of the father he barely knew. It gives you a portrait of Barack as a person. And he seems like someone you might well want to know. Well… at least later in the book. The teenage and college years Obama I’m not so sure of. :-)

But it was all basically an introspective search for self. I am not sure however that by the end Obama had actually quite figured out who he was yet. He was still patching together clues. The book ends still years before Obama was in the state legislature in Illinois, let alone the more recent experiences in the US Senate and now running for President. There is a lot more to who Obama is and to his biography than can be found in this first book.

But what is in this first book is appealing. There are a lot of warts and imperfections. This is not a glossy idealized Obama. But it still gives an interesting picture that makes you think this is exactly the kind of biography that COULD end up producing a good president. And the wide ranging background and experiences that formed his early years would give a perspective dramatically different from that of any previous president or anyone else running. But in a good way, not a bad way.

Would I vote for this man for President? Well now, that is an entirely different question. I’ll reserve judgement on that for quite a while. At least until I’ve read the second book, most likely even longer. I suspect that while I like him as a person, and think his perspective and background would be useful, and of all the candidates having him rise to the presidency would certainly be the most dramatic and inspiring narrative… I am guessing that when I dive into it many of his actual positions and policies will make it very difficult for me to consider actually voting for him even if he made it to the general election. (Out of principle I refuse to register a party and participate in any primaries.)

Of course, that will also depend who else ends up on the general election ballot, and I’m not talking just about the Republicans. Hopefully this time there will be at least one third party candidate whose views I like and who isn’t a complete nutjob. I can almost never stomach either of the major party candidates. Oh well, we shall see.

Also, I must say I am definitely liking having divided government again. It should always be that way. I’ll probably end up judging the house and senate races individually, but I must say I certainly hope that if the Democrats take the Presidency that the Republicans manage to take back the congress, and if the Republicans keep the White House the Dems keep the congress. It is always trouble when both are in the same hands… regardless of which hands.

Oh, back to the book… Dreams from My Father is very engaging. It kept me interested and turning the pages. Not just from wanting to know more about this guy running for president, but just in wanting to follow the narrative to the next step. It is emotional and a bit melodramatic, but that is OK, I like that kind of thing.

I also like the idea of a Presidential Candidate that is able to do that kind of introspection, of trying to understand his own soul. And being able to openly express it that way. And to speak about it in a compelling manner. You definitely can see the link to his convention speech in 2004. My blog was not up and running that month as I was in the process of moving my stuff from Pennsylvania to Florida and I hadn’t set everything up again, but the next day (28 Jul 2004 at 14:43:38 UTC) I made my first ever mention of Obama in an email to a couple of friends. This is what I said:

Missed it last night, but just watched Obama’s convention speech off the C-Span website. He hit it out of the park. Came off VERY well. I liked him a lot. I’ll go out on a limb and say that he WILL be on a presidential ticket (not saying top or bottom) in 2008 or 2012.

Yup. I’ll stick by that. As I said, not sure if I would vote for him, but if he doesn’t at least make it on a ticket, then I will be very disappointed.

He just generates such excitement in a way I have not seen from a candidate since… um… I was going to say since I’ve been paying attention to politics… but that is not true… there was a similar level of energy and excitement about Ross Perot at the time. Just because he was so different and broke the mold. That is the same sort of feeling around Obama.

Hopefully he doesn’t flame out like Perot did. However many years later I’m still mad at Perot for pulling out just long enough to destroy his chances in 1992 before jumping back in. If he hadn’t done that we might have actually had three candidates with electoral votes and an election thrown into the house. Damn him for spoiling the fun. At least we made up for it somewhat with the fun of the recounts in 2000.

Anyway… I got excited by this book. The Obama candidacy will be really fun to watch. And an Obama presidency would be fun to watch as well if it happened. And he *is* appealing… While I can’t say I’d vote for him… I’m not ready to rule it out yet, and that is saying quite a bit.

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