Monday, November 10, 2008

Barack Obama's Life

Here are excerpts from my students' writing about Obama's life after reading Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes. Each sentence or paragraph is from a different student. I put it together into the story of his life in a more or less chronological order.

I have edited the spelling and punctuation so they are conventional.

Barack Hussein Obama had a black dad and a white mom. His dad was from Kenya. Barack was born in Hawai’i.

He was light brown and his father was dark brown.

When he was little, they called him Barry.

When he was a child, his mom and dad got divorced.

His dad moved far, far away.

His heart was crushed. He only heard stories about his father -- he didn’t get to see him. Then his father called. They took walks and shared talks, but his father was just visiting.

He didn’t know what to say to his dad. He moved to Indonesia with his mom. He was happy, then sad, because he saw poor people.

He told his mother, “How can I help these people?”

Barack was the one keeping his family together.

He did not know who he was. He said, “I am not my mom or dad.” And his head was filled with words of what he thought he was.

When he was growing up, he thought “What am I, black or white, or do I look like my mom or dad?” People at his school said, “You’re you. You’re not your mom, not your dad, you’re just yourself.”

Then when Barack was a teenager he was thinking about education, and he went to Harvard Law School.

He heard everyone say, “Education is the way, education is the path you should stick to.” He heard Hope saying, “Be the person that you are. Stick to the path you are on.” Hope said, “You’re the bridge that will bring black people and white people together.”

He went to another country called Kenya to see his dad’s family.

He decided he wanted to change his name to Barack after his dad’s name. He went to church with his mom and his mom squeezed his hand.

He decided he could change the people and he could be both black and white.

His dad passed away. He went to see where his father was buried.

When he was at his father’s grave, he heard God talking to him. God was saying, “Go now, be free like a bird.”

He went to church to pray for his father and he was talking to Hope and to God and he seen God in his mind.

He wanted to be president.

And the Latinos and the black people and the white people said, “Yes we can.”


  1. I'm here via a link on K's blog and I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this with us. I'm constantly amazed at what kids know and understand and retain, and I love seeing how that translates onto paper. This was my favorite bit.

    And his head was filled with words of what he thought he was.

    What a glorious way to phrase that.

  2. Jenn,

    Thanks for the note. That is also one of my favorite parts! I love the language. I was amazed at how much they *got* the struggles Obama had with his identity and the loss of his father.