Book Openers: Barack Obama — How He Got So Smart

The official White House portrait. 2009.

The official White House portrait. 2009.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

If you haven’t yet read President Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, don’t miss it. It explains, I think, how Obama got so smart. As he grew from boy to man, Obama had to reconcile the many cultures that surrounded him – middle class white America in Hawaii, semi-poverty and Islam in Indonesia, urban African America in Chicago, rural Kenya, upper class Harvard.

To survive emotionally, this man had to think.

Dreams from My Father was published in 1995 and again in 2004. If you find an autographed copy of the orignal hardcover lying around, don’t lose it. It’s rare. It’s worth thousands.

I especially liked the Random House abridged audiobook version. Obama’s reading earned him the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.

Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama, Three Rivers Press, 1995 and 2004.

More about Obama, at the Rhetorictician in the White House.




  1. Barbara Saunders says:

    Dreams from My Father was a Stanford alum book club selection. The group had a long online discussion about the concept of Third Culture Kids (TCK), of which Obama is a prime example:

    • Fascunating. I hadn’t realized there were so many people — American’s and otherwise — who have grown up with a second culture. I’d think that Obama had particular challenges integrating all his cultures since his parents came from different continents/races/cultures.

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