While we’re on the topic of Obama’s father, back when I was reading Dreams From My Father, I noted one early anecdote of Barack Obama Sr. performing a near-miracle, persuading a racist who was offended by the presence of an “n-word” in his bar to change his ways in one conversation, and wondered if this influenced the way Obama saw himself:
And if you believed that your father could lecture racists into converting their ways – and then giving a hefty sum of money to people they had hated a short while earlier! – maybe you too would believe that you could end partisanship, inspire hope in all people, heal America’s soul, and all of these other grandiose world-changing promises that make some of us cynics roll our eyes…
I hope it’s a true story; it’s nice to think that Barack Obama Sr. could talk a man out of his racism. But most people who have hateful attitudes won’t give them up in the face of a lecture. It generally takes more than that to get them to rethink their preconceived notions, and some folks will never give them up.
But if you believed that your father had an almost-hypnotic capacity to calm the most troubled soul with the right words… might you also believe that you yourself could bring someone like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to see reason?
I thought of that when I encountered the following anecdote in Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell’s Obama: From Promise To Power:
Running across [senate race rival Alan] Keyes at a parade in the North Side of the city one weekend, Obama rushed over and tried to talk with him. Obama is someone who loathes conflict, and thought he could have a reasonable discussion with this man who had been hurling hateful invective at him. “Barack thinks he can win over anyone,” [Obama Senate campaign manager] Jim Cauley observed. “He thinks he can go into a roomful of skinheads and come out with all their votes.”