This is my first diary ever so please excuse any problems of formatting, etc. I recently made a six-hour trip by car . My daughter had given me an audio tape of Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, an autobiography beautifully read by the author himself. For six hours I listened to this incredible story of a complex individual who is just weeks away from becoming our first non-white president. What intrigued me most was how Obama described the conflict he faced while attempting to find his identity in a situation in which his African father had abandoned him as a young child leaving him to be raised mostly by white grandparents whom Barack adored.
The grandparents were his rock, always there to provide the stability Barack needed to grow up with structure and love. As so often happened it was during adolescence that the search for identity was the most difficult and there was little the loving grandparents could do except to be there for their grandson. Obama was fortunate, however, to live in Hawaii, ethnically diverse and a much more tolerant society than any to be found on the mainland.
The really acute existential struggle didn't begin until Barack left his native Hawaii after high school (private) to attend college in California. This is one of the most conflictual periods in Obama's life because he came face to face with a form of racial consciousness that he had not encountered before. For the first time, he had to "choose" and for a biracial male that meant becoming "black" because at the time there simply was no other option.
Let me jump ahead to the years Obama worked in Chicago as a community organizer. It was during this time that his struggle to find his place in a racially polarized country intensified. It is not at all difficult to understand how and why an intelligent, highly educated but "fatherless" young black man would have been attracted to a charismatic, intelligent and highly educated older black man, Jeremiah Wright. I urge you to read Dreams from My Father to grasp the intricacies of that relationship. What is important is that Rev. Wright had a profound influence on Obama's life --for the most part an extremely positive influence. I state this with conviction knowing that many who read this will have a hard time setting aside the caricature of a hate-spewing anti-American so elaborately cultivated by a shallow and controversy-driven media. What gets lost in that parody is the complex human being who did so much to mold Obama's character. It was Rev. Wright who impressed upon Barack the importance of faith, of believing in something higher than self. It was also Rev. Wright who provided Obama with a historical and moral framework in which to understand the ravages of racism and black self-hatred. To get a glimpse of this unusual American, I urge you to spend an hour in his presence during an interview with Bill Moyers on PBS conducted around the time of Obama's Philadelphia speech.
So, Mr. President-Elect, honor this extraordinary man--one who has faults like all of us--but the one who performed your marriage and baptized your daughters. Honor the love he has shown to you and your family and the not insignificant role he has played in your life by extending to him a personal invitation to your inauguration.