Obama's Voices

DFF2EB92-779F-43C4-9567-E1C48E25CCEB.jpgI've been listening to the audiobook, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, which has the additional benefit of being read by the author. Obama's baritone has become a familiar voice in my head. What might surprise some people, beyond Obama's ability as a writer and storyteller, is that each of his characters becomes a distinct voice that he brings alive, not just in his writing but even more so in this audiobook. They come alive for us because they are so alive to him.

Each person's unique voice -- from the lyrical African-English of his father or half-sister Auma, from his independent-minded and concerned mother to the voice of the South-side of Chicago's preachers, political organizers and young black men on the street, to his Kansas-bred grandparents and his Indonesian stepfather -- these are people that Obama carries with him. These aren't stock characters like Joe-the-plumber or Joe-Six-Pack. They aren't the subjects of morality tales like the historical characters in Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage." They are complex characters with hardships and conflicts, plagued by self-doubt and inspired by high ideals. They cuss and they cry.

I am so grateful that our democracy has elected a leader who can write like this, think and feel so deeply, with great subtlety and sympathy, and who will bring with him to the White House such a new assortment of interesting people -- not in his Cabinet but in his head.