Chapter 9 Family begins with a lighthearted story about Michelle Obama asking Barack Obama to buy ant traps on his way home from DC, followed by more personal stories about how they met and stories involving their two daughters. Obama put these stories in the large context of the struggles of ordinary American families: how to make ends meet, how to balance work and family, the challenge for working mother, and confusion and self-doubt in raising children. The deference Barack Obama showed to his wife and softness he showed to his daughters tells another side of him as a family man. It is a fun chapter to read, with quite a few comical moments such as buying ant traps, buying pizza for his daughter’s birthday party, and hand-shaking with other kids. I think what makes Barack Obama who he is is his ability to transcend the appearances of triviality and arrive at some genuine insights. My favorite one is the following:
“But I suspect that the happiness she (Sasha Obama) felt on that parachute registers permanently in her; that such moments accumulate and embed themselves in a child’s character, becoming a part of their soul. Sometimes when I listen to Michelle talk about her father, I hear the echo of such joy in her, the love and respect that Frasier Robinson earned not through fame or spectacular deeds but through small, daily, ordinary acts — a love he earned by being there. And I ask myself whether my daughters will be able to speak of me in that same way.”
As an endnote to my posts on the book summary of The Audacity of Hope, I want to say that throughout the writing, I have to fight off the urge just to block quote his book paragraphs after paragraphs. Even so, I have quoted a lot. The clarity and the precision in which he uses words are far above my skills to put them otherwise. NY Times book review in 2006 considers this book Obama’s PhD thesis for US presidency, and regard him “a man of relative youth yet maturity, a wise observer of the human condition, a figure who possesses perseverance and writing skills that have flashes of grandeur”.