Being born to a black African runaway Muslim dad and a white Christian mother could have messed up a young man forever. Following mom from Hawaii to Indonesia with her second Muslim husband could have buried his life in the Third World forever.
Moving on, the mother rejoined her white family in the Great American Midwest. As his mother had to work, Barack's grandparents saw to his raising. They were better educated than most and gave ample evidence of having superior moral and intellectual character.
However he did it, he managed to integrate the various strands of his history into a unified personality. For a racially mixed child in racist America he overcame great obstacles.
Barack achieved a Harvard Law degree when it commanded a six-figure salary. Instead, he worked as a community organizer. He met and married a woman superior to him on the job who earned more money than he did.
After he entered the rough-and-tumble of Chicago politics, Barack retained his cool and detached attitude. He articulated his inner drive and determination only when he needed to display them. He won the voters with his charismatic manner. Appearing down-to-earth he rarely exhibited more than his campaign promises. He allowed his audience to fill in the blanks. A majority of voters did just that.
"For after all, producing a few African Americans in the form of Barack Obama can and will silence whoever can still muster the courage to criticize this thoroughly racist system dubbed "American democracy" which continues to victimize most African Americans and much of the Third World."
Joseph Massad is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University.