Monday, July 14, 2008

Barack: The Biography

By David Luhrssen
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Barack Obama has become the John F. Kennedy of our time. After two terms under Bush and the muddle of the Clinton years, Obama radiates youthful, sunny optimism and intelligence coupled with candor. He speaks in the language of hope and embodies change to a body politic sick of greed and mendacity.

The Biography Channel recently produced a documentary on the charismatic leader. Simply called “Barack Obama,” it’s out now on DVD. Clocking in at under an hour, “Barack Obama” largely follows the account the Senator gave of himself in his two books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. The son of a white mother and an absent Kenyan father, raised in Jakarta with the help of his Indonesian step dad and in Hawaii by his maternal grandparents, Obama stands astride the racial divide of America. His upbringing was genuinely multi-cultural, yet he fervently embraced his African roots in a struggle to understand himself and his place in American society.

Barack means “Blessed” and in many ways, his ascent from obscurity bears out his name. Blessed with boundless energy and a sharp mind, he overcame his modest origins, graduating from Columbia University and becoming the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review before turning to politics. Along the way he developed the personality of a conciliator, seeking common ground between opposing camps while holding to his own core values.

The stock visuals in “Barack Obama” become repetitious, even dull, but the documentary’s interviews, including the Senator’s associates and family, drive home an important point: Obama is a man who believes that making a positive difference is a better measure of success than making money.

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