How does Obama characterize his mother’s parents? What significance does Hawaii have in his account of these grandparents and of his own beginnings?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Obama asserts that his grandparents had a profound impact on his development as a young man and also on his views towards race in America.  His depiction of his relationship with his grandparents is shown in an open manner.  They took care of him, raised him, and supported him while in Hawaii.  They helped him acclimate to life as a youngster.  However, it was through his time with them that he started to become aware of the issue of race.  Being of a mixed racial heritage, there are going to be periods of engaging in the search for an identity or a sense of peace on what racial differences are within the individual.  Obama reflects on this in his time with his grandparents, ruminating about how this aspect of his identity, his "Africanness," could play a role in his definition, his conception of self.  Was he supposed to forego color and assume that there was no difference, validating the "melting pot" approach to race that failed to acknowledge its presence?  Was he supposed to distance himself from others in being a racial minority?  How does once come to peace with an issue that was not their own to create?  The President's memoirs (written before being President) help to illuminate this dynamic in that it requires constant rumination and a sense of striving for understanding until peace with one's identity can be established.  We see this in the discussion of his time with his grandparents, reflective of how much he loves them, yet also understanding that their nurturing can allow him to take the next steps to better understand who he is from a racial point of view.