Posted on Tuesday, December 07, 2010 @ 23:12:08 EST in Soetoro
by Southern

Bernard Schoenburg, (Source:State Journal-Register)

16 Nov 2003


State Sen.  BARACK OBAMA, D-Chicago, who is running for U.S.  Senate, didn't tell all when recently asked about any past use of illegal drugs.

I know that because I found out more information in a 1995 book by - guess who - Barack Obama.

"Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," is, according to liner notes, a "lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir" documenting how "the son of a black African father and white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American."

In his introduction, Obama says he was asked to write the book because of publicity he received as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, and he took a year off after graduation to do so.  He said last week he was 33 when he wrote it.  He had gone to law school after being a community organizer in Chicago.  His Kenyan father and his mother, a Kansas native, met when both were students in Hawaii.

Obama, 42, told me recently he had tried marijuana in high school and hasn't consumed any illegal drugs in 20 years.  When I asked if there was anything beyond marijuana in his past, Obama said, "That'll suffice." But the book includes a passage in which Obama discusses how he dealt with questions from his mother when he was 17 and a senior in high school.  The context of the book also makes clear that he was trying to deal with the problems his race presented.

"I had learned not to care," he wrote.  "I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years.  Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it.  Not smack, though.  ..."

"Blow" is a street name for cocaine.  "Smack" is slang for heroin.

"Junkie.  Pothead.  That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man," Obama wrote.  "Except the highs hadn't been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was.  Not by then, anyway.  I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory.  I had discovered that it didn't make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmate's sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you'd met down at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl.  ...  You might just be bored, or alone.  Everybody was welcome into the club of disaffection."

Obama last week apologized for not telling me earlier about his past as portrayed in the book.  He said I had caught him off guard with the drug question and that, at the time, he had not wanted to overshadow his story of that day - his endorsement by the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

"My life is literally an open book," he said, referring to "Dreams of My Father."

"I was a confused kid and was making a bunch of negative choices based on stereotypes of what I thought a tough young man should be," he said of the period depicted in that section of the book.  "Those choices were misguided, a serious mistake.

"Growing up to be a man involves taking responsibility," he said.  "By the time I was 20, I was no longer engaged in any of this stuff.

"A lot of us make mistakes when we're kids.  Part of my campaign, I think, is to be as clear and honest about who I am and how I've grown as a person over time."

Just for the record, I have been asking Senate candidates about their past drug use because I thought it fair to do so after another reporter popped the question to a GOP candidate at a news conference.  Some have said they had used marijuana.  Some have said they have never used illegal drugs.

Clearly, the small excerpt I have taken from Obama's 403-page book is just a tiny bit of his story.

"'Dreams from My Father' is one of the most powerful books of self-discovery I've ever read, all the more so for its illuminating insights into the problems not only of race, class, and color, but of culture and ethnicity," author and journalist CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT is quoted on the book's dust cover.  "It is also beautifully written, skillfully layered, and paced like a good novel."

I'll reserve the right to say more about it, if I ever get it all read. 


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