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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Connections Define Us

I attended the conference of the National Foster Parent Association this past weekend and took the book “Dreams of My Father” by Barak Obama.  Little did I realize that there would be a common theme of how all of us use our connections with others to develop our identities and self-image.

The keynote speaker at the NFPA Conference was Derek Clark who eloquently spoke how an abusive childhood where he struggled to be validated by his parents shapes him to this date.  He felt he was a mistake and that the abuse he received was his fault as his Mother held his hand under hot water until the skin  peeled off.  Or when he wet his bed and his Mother’s boyfriend held his head under water in the toilet until his Mother grabbed Derek’s shoulder to keep his head above the water so hard that it dislocated his shoulder.  The result of this abuse made him an angry, defiant child that moved through many foster care placements until he finally arrived in the foster home of two people that today he calls his parents.  For the first time in his life he wasn’t the subject of the anger of adults and began to see that he was a child worthy of love.  The only way he was able to move past these experiences was by letting go of the past and forgiving the adults that had caused his pain.  Only then was he able to reconstruct his life as an adult.  His story is truly inspiring as one person’s efforts to release the negative connections of his childhood and creating the positive connections with his wife and children.  I have attached some links to his You Tube videos of his life.

         I have been meaning to read the President’s book because I have heard him say that who he is today was shaped by his experiences growing up.  It is a fascinating book to read as it shows how his search for identity many times placed him between two groups.  We all know that his racial identity was a challenge by having a white Midwestern mother and a foreign born African father. Even though he grew up in a multi-cultural state like Hawaii he never felt like he fit in with either racial group.  His Father disappeared from his life when he was a small child and his only memory of him was a one month visit as a 7 year old.  When he was 8 years old his Mother married an Indonesian man and the family lived to Indonesia for 2 years.  He was now looked at as the American in Asian country.  Additionally his father was Muslim and he had been raised Christian.  Again caught between two identities.  After 2 years his Mother decided he needed to be educated in the States so he went back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents.  His relationship with his grandparents takes on the tone of parents and again the identity issues arose in his teen years as he tried to fit in with different racial groups.  What came out of these experiences was the ability to relate to a variety of groups without ever having a well-developed sense of self.  The normal identity issues that all teenagers experience were much more profound in Obama’s life. If you want to understand how Obama governs as President spend some time this summer reading his book.  It explains his approach to politics.

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Mo said...

Great post. I've been meaning to get to that first Obama book as well, good motivation to do so this weekend. :)

Karen L. said...

I'm just finishing it up -- you're right, excellent insights into how the President approaches things.

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