Obama has a transcendent ambition: It's part of what gives him the "man of destiny" quality. When you see him on TV or in pictures, he always seems to be looking into the middle distance -- not to any person in particular but toward "the people" and the far horizon.
One way to measure Obama's sense of destiny is to think about the choices before him when he graduated from Harvard Law School as the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review: He could have walked into a Supreme Court clerkship or harvested a fortune working for a fancy law firm. But Obama's ambition was much bigger. He went to Chicago to start building a base to run for . . . well, we know where this story leads.
People who met Obama in those early days in Chicago say they were struck by two qualities: First was his remarkable ability to work across racial lines; the second was his political ambition. His strategy was to straddle -- between black and white, between rich and poor, between Harvard and the streets. That's still the essence of his appeal: I am the person who can bring America together because I contain within myself all of its contradictions...
What's compelling about Obama is that fusion of grace and ambition. He's playing for the highest stakes, but he makes it look easy...
Albert Murray titled a collection of his essays on black culture "The Omni-Americans." That was his view of the African American experience, that it pointed in every direction at once -- toward anger and healing, toward rage at America and a patriotism that has led blacks to serve in disproportionate numbers in the military, toward the paradox of hating America and being intensely loyal to it.
That's the history-changing package that Barack Obama brings to the presidential race. Based on last week's primary results, we have a rendezvous in November with that vision of "Omni-America" and the transcendent and potentially disruptive change it represents.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Barack Obama: A fusion of grace and ambition
I was just following a bunch of links from the days Barack Obama first appeared on the scene and came across this article by David Ignatius from May 2008. Some things are just as true now as they were back then. Enjoy!