Dreams from My Father Questions and Answers
by Barack Obama

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What does Barack think is the only way to bring about lasting social and economic change based on his book Dreams from My Father?

Barack doesn't argue that there is one specific way to bring about lasting change. However, the way he describes the lessons he’s learned from others emphasizes the importance of social tolerance and unity to create change. In addition, he discusses his involvement in community organizing and stresses his belief in the power of bottom-up, grassroots work.

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Barack’s book focuses more on his personal development than concrete suggestions for American social development. However, he reflects on the lessons he’s learned about his own identity in the context of social activists like Malcom X and Harold Washington. The way Barack connects his own ideologies to theirs suggests that his ideas reflect their approach for transformative, social change.

For example, Barack describes the first time he picked up Malcom X’s autobiography. He writes that he had previously been wrestling with the work of other African American writers like Baldwin, DuBois, and Hughes because he felt they had been “forced to doubt art’s redemptive power” (Obama 86). But he says that Malcom X’s autobiography spoke to him and that he connected with Malcom X’s “unadorned insistence on respect” (86). Through the stories of what he learned from others, Obama suggests that by listening to and understanding others’ points of view, we can develop a connected, positive vision for social change.

Writer David Samuel puts this well when he says,

Obama actually proposes an understanding of race that moves beyond the specter of identity politics: personal stories and literary histories are the powerful sources through which a functional sense of self and a political vision can be created. (Stein, 1)

In addition, Barack’s story in this book also emphasizes his belief in bottom-up social change. For example, he recounts his experiences as a community organizer. “Change won't come from the top,” he writes. “Change will come from mobilized grassroots.” He feels that in order for social and economic change to be sustainable, it requires a complete transformation of the way things work. Such a transformation requires advocacy and effort from the bottom up, instead of the top down.

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