Barack Obama

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Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America. Obama began his career as a ­community organiser in some of Chicago’s poorest communities, then attended Harvard Law School, where he was the first African-­American ­president of the Harvard Law Review.

From 1997 to 2004, he served as state ­senator from Chicago’s South Side. After a landslide victory in Illinois in 2004, he became the fifth African-American senator in US history. His stirring keynote speech urged the nation to unite, whilst acknowledging that, ‘Let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was ... born and raised in a small village in Kenya.’ His presence, his principles and his oratory prompted political commentators to predict that he might be the first African American to be elected to the White House.

From Dreams from my Father
Original full-length version © Text Publishing, Melbourne
Condensed version © Reader’s Digest Australia

Over lunch, I explained to a group of boys that my father was a prince. ‘My grandfather, see, he’s a chief. It’s sort of like the king of the tribe, you know . . . like the Indians. So that makes my father a prince. He’ll take over when my grand­father dies.’

‘What about after that?’ one of my friends asked as we emptied our trays into the trash bin. ‘I mean, will you go back and be a prince?’

‘Well . . . if I want to, I could. It’s sort of complicated, see, ’cause the tribe is full of warriors. They all want to be chief, so my father has to settle these feuds before I can come.’

As the words tumbled out of my mouth, and I felt the boys readjust to me, more curious and familiar as we bumped into each other in the line back to class, a part of me really began to believe the story. But another part of me knew that what I was telling them was a lie, something I’d constructed from the scraps of information I’d picked up from my mother.

My mother had sensed my apprehension in the days building up to his arrival. She explained that she had maintained a correspondence with him throughout the time we had been in Indonesia, and that he knew all about me. Like her, my father had remarried, and I now had five brothers and one sister living in Kenya. He had been in a bad car accident, and this trip was part of his recuperation after a long stay in the hospital.

‘You two will become great friends,’ she decided.

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