Today, I wanted to post an excerpt from my book, featuring one of the most inspirational, successful black men who all of us are familiar with. Barack Obama.
The President of the United States has inspired me, my family, and most black Americans that I know, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better role model for our boys than this strong man. Stay tuned for more great examples of successful black men to lead a generation!
President Barack Obama
First Black President of the United States
At this time in American history, we have been graced with an African-American president. It would be irresponsible not to give honorable mention to the most recognized face of African-American male success: President Barack Obama. Although he was not available for an interview, President Obama relayed his wishes for success for this book
through the press department of the White House.
The president’s life growing up is well documented in his autobiography Dreams from My Father. So I thought it would be a good idea to review his life. Like 70 percent of African-American children today, he did not grow up with his father. However, President Obama had much support during his childhood, which contributed to his success today.
Loving and Supportive Family
Young Barack was blessed to have a loving, supportive mother and grandparents. His grandfather, Stanley Dunham, lovingly called “Gramps,” was very adventurous and enjoyed regaling his grandson with grand stories about the boy’s father. He told his grandson that one thing he could learn from his dad, Barack Obama Sr., was confidence.
When Barack and his mother moved to Indonesia to live with her new husband, Lolo, he made sure Barack (Barry) was treated as his own son. At one point, when it seemed that young Barry would become a victim of neighborhood bullies, his stepfather gave him hours of boxing lessons and taught him the importance of being prepared. When asked about the most important skill he needed as a man, his stepdad responded quickly, “Strength, if you can’t be strong, be clever.”
Stanley Anna Dunham, his mother (named Stanley because her father wanted a boy), no doubt loved and was committed to her son. When he received a cut on his arm from mud-sliding with his friend, his mom naturally became frantic. Her husband tried to convince her to wait until the following day, but she practically browbeat her neighbor into driving them to the hospital immediately. Being a single mom, she never allowed Barack’s absence to be an excuse for him to slack off or not always do his best. She realized that his only chance to become successful was to get a good education, so she would wake him every morning at 4:00 a.m. five days a week for three hours of English study! When he complained, she responded, “This is no picnic for me either, Buster.” His complaints did not deter her. She knew what she needed to do as his mom, and she was committed to him getting the best education. As a white mother to a black child, she exposed him to his history and taught him lessons of honesty, fairness, straight talk, and independent judgment. She could have easily taught her son to dislike his father, but she filled his head with positive things about Barack Sr. Even though his mother was equally intelligent, she explained his thick eyebrows by saying, “Your eyebrows are from me, but your brains are from your father.”
So even though Barack did not grow up with his father, he did not use that as an excuse to live a mediocre life. Of course, he later had to reconcile his absence in his life. But he used his lack of a father to fuel the fire to be the committed father he is today. More important, he was able to identify with a positive image of his father, a confident, smart, and charismatic figure. And that, no doubt, helped him to become the confident, intelligent, and influential man he is today.
Lesson—Parents, education is preparation for your child’s future. Expect and accept nothing less than the best education. If you or your child is inconvenienced, so be it; that’s the price you sometimes have to pay for success.
As a single parent, do not fill your child’s mind with negative images and thoughts of the other parent. It may satisfy your need for revenge, but it only serves to fill your child with self-loathing. Handle the issues with the other parent in private. Speak only of the positive, and let the child know that no matter what, the other parent loves him.
If possible, surround your child with good, supportive grandparents and other relatives. You will certainly need their help and support during the child’s life. Remember, it takes a village! A child cannot receive too much love. Young Barack certainly couldn’t have become the man he is today without the love and nurturing of his extended family.