In my latest reading of Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama talks about his time at Columbia University, his work in the corporate world, and then his entrance into the world of community organizing.
I’d like to highlight something that Obama says on page 121:
“I might meet a black friend at his Midtown law firm, and before heading to lunch at the MoMa, I would look out across the city toward the East River from his high-rise office, imagining a satisfactory life for myself—-a vocation, a family, a home. Until I noticed that the only other blacks in the office were messengers or clerks, the only other blacks in the museum were blue-jacketed security guards who counted the hours before they could catch their train home to Brooklyn or Queens.”
This is an important passage because Barack highlights that he had dreams of a good life for himself, but he wondered if those dreams could be fulfilled because there were barriers that inhibited African-Americans from economically rising.
Interestingly, after Barack got an education and was thinking of becoming a community organizer, an African-American security guard named Ike tried to encourage Barack to go into something that would make him more money. Ike saw that Obama had potential, and he wanted Barack to succeed financially! But Barack was drawn to community organizing, in part because of his admiration for the civil rights movement. Then, Barack felt, he could make a difference at a grass-roots level.