1990 Obama Interview: America is ‘Mean Spirited’


Ironic Surrealism has the full text and the image of a newspaper interview of Barack Obama in 1990. He was 28 years old at the time, and was ready for his career as a community organizer in Chicago. Here are just a few snippets:

At a recent meeting in a Harvard cafeteria, his affinity with the underdog was readily apparent. “I lived in a country where I saw extreme poverty at a very early age,” Obama said. “Parts of my family in Kenya remain very poor. My grandmother still lives in a mud-walled house with no running water or electricity.

“That’s who I am, that’s where I come from, not always literally, but at least emotionally.”

So, you would think that seeing how people live in third world countries, the young Barack would have been pretty impressive with life in the United States. But you’d be wrong.

America suffered when the movements of the 1960s dissipated, he said. Those movements succeeded in raising doubts about harmful traditions of sexism and racism, but failed to offer a viable alternative.

“Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow part of this larger story of how we’re going to reshape America in a way that is less mean-spirited and more generous,” Obama said.

“I mean, I really hope to be part of a transformation of this country.”And the future of black people and of America generally? “It depends on how good I do my job,” he said.

Read the whole thing. Didn’t his wife make similar comments during the 2008 campaign? By then he had learned how to tone things down, but the sentiment was the same. “More generous” became “spread the wealth around.”

Also, check out Stacy’s post pointing out that Obama was pretty much in line with progressive thinking at the time.