I’m reading Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father. It’s very well written, though I imagine it is a best seller– and a main reason why I decided to read it– because it was written by the Leader of the Free World, the President of the United States, at a time when the United States occupies the zenith of its world power. I’m only halfway through, so a review would be premature. What’s striking is that the book is largely focused on Obama’s views on and struggles with race relations in the United States. It talks about his time as a college student, attending rallies and protesting the state of blacks in the world, and in the United States. Here is a man who spent many of his formative years pushing back at what he felt were injustices in the world and struggling — like many of us — with what it all means.
Now, as President of the United States, he is the object of student protest. He is a long way from where he started. From protestor to object of protest, from pushing back at power to holding the most powerful office in the world, is a long, long way.
He was protested at Notre Dame, largely for his stance on abortion:
While Obama received a warm welcome when he took the stage at the ceremony, he was less than five minutes into his remarks before police had escorted out three protesters. “You are a baby killer,” one man continued to yell, at which point the crowd broke into a deafening chant: “We are N.D.” As the man was led out by police, Obama diverted from his prepared text to say, “We’re not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes.”
From protesting against apartheid in South Africa to being called a baby killer.
Obama has disappointed some anti-abortion Catholics with decisions as president that they view to be at odds with his more tempered language on abortion, such as lifting the ban on federal funding for overseas clinics that offer abortion counseling and reversing the Bush administration’s ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. One of the protesters at Notre Dame, Jill Stanek, an anti-abortion blogger who did not support Obama, said the president’s speech sounded eerily familiar.
“It was just a regurgitation of things he’s said for a long time,” Stanek said. “He’s so good at expressing your point of view, so people are lulled into thinking he agrees with them, and he doesn’t. It’s just so typical Barack Obama.”
As Obama spoke, a few dozen students were boycotting their graduation at a separate ceremony…. the divergent views he addressed in his remarks were on display among the graduates and family members in the audience. Some students put the image of a cross and baby feet on their graduation caps to symbolize their protest. Other anti-abortion students and their parents wore white carnations on their lapels.
“We’re making progress,” Obama said. “But we’ve got a much longer journey ahead.”
A long way, indeed.