I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963, African Americans had suffered centuries of slavery followed by decades of segregation and racism. In 1963, most African Americans were being denied the right to register, vote, or run for office. Indeed, many could not even imagine Reverend King’s dream of racial equality ever becoming a reality in America.
At the time Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous speech, Barack Obama was only two years old but like King, he too had an unrealistic dream of being judged by the content of his character and not by the color of his skin. As a child, he dreamed of becoming the President of the United States of America. At the time, he had no idea of how many obstacles he would have to overcome to make both of these dreams, a reality.
On February 10, 2007, when Senator Barack Obama from Illinois declared his intentions to run for the office of president of the United States, most people laughed at the audacity of the young man. Nobody thought his declaration would lead to the achievement of Reverend King’s dream. Most people thought he was simply trying to draw attention to his cause while others thought nothing would come of it. You see, Senator Obama faced major obstacles coming from his background and life experiences. These obstacles came with labels of:
• Black male
• Islamic Names
• Single parentage
• Low-income background
• Questionable nationality
• Freshman politician
• No major backing
• No major funding
• Too young
• Generally unknown
Looking back, one could say Barack Obama’s road to failure was paved early. He was born a black male in a country that stereotyped black males as underachievers, underclass, unemployed, and criminal. As a black male, he was racially profiled as being dead or in jail by the age of twenty and living a very low quality life. In 1961, the year of his birth, black males along with others in the civil rights movement were hosed down, beaten, flogged, jailed, and killed for demanding their rights. Fortunately, by the time he grew into adulthood, things had improved a lot BUT he still stood a better chance of being jailed than winning an election!
Like many black males, Barack Obama was raised by his mother, a single parent, after his father abandoned them when he was only two years old. Fortunately, others helped to raise him including his grandparents and for a period, a stepfather. These family members helped him avoid the fate of many children of single parents who are poor, live on public assistance, suffer low self-esteem, and have a harder time doing well in school.
Barack Hussein Obama had two Muslim names and a foreign-sounding last name which created problems for him because after 9/11, people linked Islam with terrorism in their minds. Perhaps he would have avoided this problem if he had kept his childhood nickname of “Barry.” However, he didn’t and because of his names, opponents questioned his religion, nationality, allegiance to America, and every other thing they could imagine. They also pretended he was Osama bin Laden, a known terrorist. For example, on the December 11th 2006 edition of CNN’s Situation Room, correspondent Jeanne Moos noted that “[o]nly one little consonant differentiates” Obama and Osama.”1
Aside from his names, Obama had lived in Indonesia early in his childhood and this raised questions about his nationality and eligibility to run for president of the United States. You see, the Constitution states that anyone running for president must be a natural born citizen of the United States, at least thirty-five years old, and must have been permanently resident in the U.S. for at least fourteen years. Fortunately, Barack Obama qualified though he still faced the obstacles of being a freshman politician with no major backing, funding, or recognition.
He was the junior senator from Illinois and had only come onto the national stage in 2004 when he gave a memorable address at the Democratic Party National Convention. Few people knew about him and fewer still wanted to support him personally or financially. Yet, in spite of these obstacles and others he encountered during the twenty-one month long campaign, Barack Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009 as the 44th President of the United States of America! He overcame many obstacles and achieved his dreams. He received more total votes than any presidential candidate in history totaling well over 69 million votes! He won 52.7% of the votes which was the best percentage since George H.W. Bush in 1988 and he became the first Northern democrat to serve in the White House since President Kennedy.2
This book is about lessons we can learn from Barack Obama’s journey to the White House. Arranged as strategies, we discover a lot about dreaming, setting goals, and achieving success using the strategies that worked for then Senator Obama during his presidential campaign. We ask and answer questions such as: what was his dream? What steps did he take to bring his dream to life? Who was in his winning team? And how did he overcome the obstacles blocking his path?
Indeed, President Obama’s meteoric rise to the highest office in the land is both inspiring and instructive and each chapter of this book focuses on strategies to inspire us to greatness. At the end of each chapter, you have an opportunity to create your own path to greatness using the strategy discussed as a blueprint.
So, in the following pages, be inspired to:
1. Dream big
2. Show up and show out
3. Have a game plan
4. Make it fresh
5. Walk your talk
7. Know your posse
8. Put the haters on mute
9. Give sump’n back, and
10. Keep it real.
[Excerpt from Wanna B Prez? 10 Life Strategies from President Barack Obama’s Journey to the White House].