Home education Meet the lady who rejected barack obama hand in marriage.Here is why

Meet the lady who rejected barack obama hand in marriage.Here is why

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Of the books that journalists and historians have written on the life of Barack Obama, three stand out so far. In “Barack Obama: The Story,” David Maraniss shows us who Obama is. In “Reading Obama,” James T. Kloppenberg explains how Obama thinks. In “The Bridge,” David Remnick tells us what Obama means

It is in the personal realm that Garrow’s account is particularly revealing. He shares for the first time the story of a woman Obama lived with and loved in Chicago, in the years before he met Michelle, and whom he asked to marry him. Sheila Miyoshi Jager, now a professor at Oberlin College, is a recurring presence in “Rising Star,” and her pained, drawn-out relationship with Obama informs both his will to rise in politics and the trade-offs he deems necessary to do so. Garrow, who received a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Martin Luther King Jr., concludes this massive new work with a damning verdict on Obama’s determination: “While the crucible of self-creation had produced an ironclad will, the vessel was hollow at its core.”

Note how it was as much about Obama himself as any success he had in his organizing work. Inspired by Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor, Obama began to discuss his political ambitions with a few colleagues and friends during his early time in the city. He wanted to be mayor of Chicago. Or a U.S. senator. Or governor of Illinois. Or perhaps he would enter the ministry. Or, as he confided to very few, including Jager, he would become president of the United States. Lofty stuff for a 20-something community organizer who struggled to write fiction on the side.

Jager, who in “Dreams From My Father” was virtually written out, compressed into a single character along with two prior Obama girlfriends, may have evoked something of Obama’s distant mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. Like Dunham, Jager studied anthropology, and while Dunham focused on Indonesia, Jager developed a deep expertise in the Korean Peninsula. She was of Dutch and Japanese ancestry, fitting the multicultural world Obama was only starting to leave behind. They were a natural pair. Jager soon came to realize, she told Garrow, that Obama had “a deep-seated need to be loved and admired.”

She describes their time together as an isolating experience, “an island unto ourselves” in which Obama would “compartmentalize his work and home life.” She did not meet Jeremiah Wright, the pastor with a growing influence on Obama, and they rarely saw his professional colleagues socially. The friends they saw were often graduate students at the University of Chicago, where Jager was pursuing her doctorate. They traveled together to meet her family, as well as his. Soon they began speaking of marriage.

“In the winter of ‘86, when we visited my parents, he asked me to marry him,” she told Garrow. Her parents were opposed, less for any racial reasons (Obama came across to them like “a white, middle-class kid,” a close family friend said) than out of concern about Obama’s professional prospects, and because her mother thought Jager, two years Obama’s junior, was too young. “Not yet,” Sheila told Barack. But they stayed together.

Obama went off to Harvard Law School and met Michelle Robinson at the Chicago law firm where she was employed, wrote Garrow, who received the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Barack and Sheila had continued to see each other irregularly throughout the 1990-91 academic year, notwithstanding the deepening of Barack’s relationship with Michelle Robinson,” Garrow wrote, according to the review. “

Once Barack and Michelle were married, his personal ties to Sheila were reduced to the occasional letter (such as after the 9/11 attacks) and phone call (when he reached out to ask whether a biographer had contacted her).

If Garrow is correct in concluding that Obama’s romantic choices were influenced by his political ambitions, it is no small irony that Michelle Obama became one of those most skeptical about his political prospects, and most dubious about his will to rise

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