Curiosity in the early lives of the great and prominent people has been one of the reasons why their biographies or autobiographies occupy various shelves in the national, school and home libraries. One of such great minds includes Barack Hussein Obama. Ever since the world knew him for the first time in 2004 at the Democratic Convention as the junior senator from Illinois, there were certain grounds and glimpses that he would one day be an influential figure capable of running for the top seat in the countrys political arena. To fully understand the ingredients which make up his personality traits, this paper will use psychoanalytical analysis, knowledge and historical analysis of Obamas early background into adulthood. Theories discussed here are the psychoanalytical, social learning theory and humanistic theory and how they manifest in The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama.
The Audacity of Hope is a captivating blend of an autobiography and the analysis of American policies written in a way different from the typical ghost-written biographies of most politicians seeking offices. In this book, Obama narrates the challenges of an unusual childhood, family breakups as well as policies whose effects are felt by America today. Obamas meteoric rise from a humble background, interracial origin, and a broken family, to Harvard Law School, the Senate and then to the presidency have remained a matter of endless interest. Born of a Kenyan father and an American mother, in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961, Barack Obamas multiracial existence had begun. His parents divorced when he was two. He attended Punahou Academy and then proceeded to Columbia University in New York where he graduated with a degree in political science in 1983. In 1988, he enrolled in Harvard Law School and graduated in 1991. In October the following year, he married Michelle.
The psychoanalytical theory holds it that an individuals relationship with his mother in the early developmental stages is crucial to the persons personality and emotional makeup (Gosselin). Obama has described Ann Dunham Obama as a dominant figure in his formative years. He credited his mother with the source of high values that guided him in his political journey. Some sources have described a younger Ann as a girl who was always challenging, arguing and comparing things. She talked of ideologies that her peers did not understand. Obamas contrarian world view, inquisitive and defiant nature can be attributed to his mothers parental traits. Abandoned by his mother at a younger age, Obama developed an extraordinary, unique and complex personality. He missed a chance to grow around his biological father who abandoned him and his mother. Pain and anger overwhelmed him in his younger years that Obama learned how to suppress his emotions. As a result, he vowed to be the best father to his children and the best husband to his wife.
In this book, Obamas personality comes out as an ambitious young man, in the quest to beat all odds to reach great heights. His humility and calmness prevail even when he is under pressure, and his wife, Michelle, can attest to this MY WIFE WILL tell you that by nature Im not somebody who gets real worked up about things (p.16). On the contrary, from the prolog of The Audacity of Hope, he confesses to having been faced with anger, bargaining, despair, and denial when he realized the slim chances of achieving his political dreams due to financial constraints (p.7).
Racial issues punctuate Obama's journey to an African America. On his visit as a senator to the city of Houston to work with the Red Cross and FEMA in delivering food, clothing, and shelter, he learns about what he calls the black poverty (p.137). He realizes how the black people of that area had been marginalized even before Hurricane Katrina struck the area. His activist mind led him to address the issue on a morning TV show criticizing the slow response by FEMA to emergency evacuation, citing the reasons that the victims were black. The American history holds a place for slavery and racial subjugation which did not favor black people. Some of the attendees of his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention remembered a line from his speech There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America-theres the United States of America. (p.138) .They gained comfort from this line. This presents Obama as a unifying figure for American citizens beyond the national borders.
Social learning theory
The social learning theory holds that learning can occur through observation, imitation, and modeling (Gosselin). Obamas social and political life has been fine-tuned by learning from other former influential leaders, and his father. In some other books such as Dreams from my father he writes that his father was a brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader. The fact that he abandoned the young Obama left a powerful and painful realization which he later had to learn to live. He had to develop emotional intelligence through isolation, discipline and emotional detachment to unconsciously protect himself. This is the reason why he seems cool, non-spontaneous and never so angry. Even with a supreme self-confidence and self-control, he still identifies with people referring himself as one of you. One of the few occasions that Obama displayed his emotions was during the launch of The Audacity of Hope when he had felt he had abandoned his family while working as the senator, just like his father did to him.
Obamas internationalism played a huge role in molding his intelligence on international policies. The experiences of living in Indonesia, Hawaii and the American West gave him a perspective of viewing racism issues and the related statistics involving black people in America. His identity had been described as Afro-Asian-Latin-European by Andrew Young, African-American leader, and was considered as a post-racial colour-blind politician. Obamas liberalism came about when he encouraged people to explore racism with boldness to curb it. On the contrary, he called the black community to avoid the victimization tag to maximize their potentialities and opportunities.
Having achieved all that he dreamed of, fulfilling his fathers dream, having a happy, wonderful family and eventually ascending to the presidency of the United States for maximum terms, Obama seems to have fulfilled Maslows hierarchy of self-actualization-central to humanistic theory. The major obstacles in his way included interracial heritage, family breakup - when his father abandoned him at an early age, juggling family and professional duties weighed him down. As a remedy, Obama used his mixed color to his advantage: uniting white and black Americans, marrying a happy wife and striving to be the best father, and husband.
Gosselin, C. "Personality Theories: An Introduction". Personality and Individual Differences 1.3 (1980): 313. Web.
Obama, Barack. The Audacity of Hope. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006. Print.
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