That's Garry Wills' description of the core method of Barack Obama's career and life. His review of the Remnick book is a must-read (and an inspired assignment). I don't agree with its conclusion - a "wasted" first year - but I was intrigued by these insights into how Obama altered the facts of his own life-story for political ends:
He said [at Selma]: “My grandfather was a cook to the British in Kenya. Grew up in a small village and all his life, that’s all he was a cook and a houseboy. And that’s what they called him, even when he was 60 years old. They called him a houseboy. They wouldn’t call him by his last name. Call him by his first name. Sound familiar?” Actually, Remnick shows that Obama’s grandfather was a respected village elder and property owner, who left his native town for Nairobi to cook for British colonials, and then traveled with British troops to Burma, bringing back their Western clothes and ways to his village.
In Selma, Obama claimed that his father was the beneficiary of the civil rights movement because it made the American government bring Kenyans, including his father, to the United States: “So the Kennedys decided we’re going to do an airlift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country.” Remnick proves that the airlift was an idea for the improvement of Kenya, conceived and implemented by the Kenyan leader Tom Mboya, who came to America and raised funds from private sources, including Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. It was only after Obama’s father had flown in the first airlift that John Kennedy contributed to the airlift, also from private (not government) funds.
Not that big a deal - but interesting.
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