Out of the many politicians in America’s democracy, President Barack Obama is unique in several ways. For one, the books authored under his name are actually written, beginning to end, by himself. In Washington politicians author many books, but very rarely are the words their own; the tradition is to use a ghostwriter.
Mr. Obama is also unique in that his first book – Dreams From My Father – was written in 1995, before he became a politician. This offers a view into the president’s true beliefs, a valuable exercise given how difficult it sometimes is to determine what a politician really thinks. (What did former president George W. Bush really think about Iraq, for instance?) Unlike a book such as My Life – the autobiography of former president Bill Clinton – one does not have to wonder how much of Dreams From My Father is authentic.
Interestingly enough, Mr. Obama did take some steps to promote Dreams From My Father. One such interview provides a revealing hint of his early philosophy:
The video does not arouse the electrifying excitement of, say, an Obama speech. It is, to be truthful, somewhat boring.
Nevertheless, the interview contains a substantial discussion of race, far more than that of the campaign or Mr. Obama’s current presidential term. This is somewhat natural, since race is a major element of the book being discussed. Yet race does appear to have occupied many hours of thought for Mr. Obama. He even appears more “black” to this viewer – though “blackness” is a very subjective evaluation. On the other hand, apart from the slight outdatedness of the video, Obama also looks much like a thoughtful student or professor – though perhaps too young for a president.
Finally, one can tell that the Obama in the video is not substantially different from the one today. His ideology and beliefs seem to have held constant over time. That is either a comforting or worrisome thought, depending on whether you are liberal or conservative.