Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father’s Day; Senator Barack Obama on Fathers, Sons and Family Values

Senator Barack Obama: “You know, there's a wonderful saying by [former President] Lyndon Johnson that'Every man is either trying to live up to his father's expectations or making up for his mistakes.' And I guess I'm sort of doing both. I think, in some ways, I still chase after his ghost a little bit, but also, I think I try to balance the importance of family with my career in ways that he wasn't able to accomplish.” See, here, NPR interview with then Democratic U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama, who was giving the keynote speech to the Democratic Party National Convention that evening, July 27, 2004.
Senator Barack Obama: I am the United States Senator from the State of Illinois but not a native of Illinois. I actually was born in Hawaii and I am the product of a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya who met at the University of Hawaii. I did not know my father at all. He essentially was sort of a myth to me. He left my mother when I was two. I met him only once when I was ten years old. We spent about a month together. I think that in some ways my experience is not unusual for a lot of men and particularly African-American men—not knowing their fathers well.
Senator Barack Obama: He did seem to be a remarkable person. I mean everybody who had interactions with him always painted him as larger of life. He was part of that first generation of Africans that came to study in America. He got a scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii, ended up being a straight A student, Phi Beta Kappa, he was President of the international students there. He was the first African student to attend the University. Met my mother in a Russian class. They fell in love, had me, but he decided to go continue his studies at Harvard [and he] couldn’t afford to take my mother and myself with him. And, then [he] went back to Kenya. So, I ended up knowing him primarily through the stories that my mother and my grandparents told.
Senator Barack Obama: My mother when I got older was always shocked by how much my mannerisms were like him. There’s an imprint that I think fathers can have on their sons that’s not always apparent initially. It wasn’t until I had graduated from high school, had lettered in basketball and had played on the state championship team that I remembered that he [Obama’s father] had given me my first basketball. It wasn’t until I had got to college and had an extensive jazz collection that I remembered that he took me to a Dave Brubeck concert when I was ten. There is an enormous amount of information that is transmitted to children by their parents and that I think, I guess would be the advice that I would give to people-- Parents understanding how powerful their impact on their children are, and I guess, in part, it would be a message, in particular to African American men, who are so often absent from their children’s lives. Your children can’t afford for you to be absent. You have an impact on them for good and for ill.
Senator Barack Obama: One of the things that I always think is the greatest gift you can give your children is not passing on your own craziness to them. We all have a little bit of craziness in us, but if we can maybe pass on those things that are best in us and give our kids a clean slate, that’s a pretty good gift, a pretty good inheritance.
U. S. Senator Barack Obama [D-IL], speaking about Fathers and Sons, on a special edition of ABC's Nightline-- apparently focusing on Fathers’ Day, June 17, 2005