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Keywords:

  • Barack Obama;
  • redemption;
  • transformation

Every new president raises many questions in the public mind. Because Barack Obama was a relative newcomer to the national political scene, he raised more questions than most and still does two years into his presidency. Who is Barack Obama, really?

I trace the intertwined developmental arcs of the president's late-blooming ambition and his ambivalent relationships with both of his parents and his own core identity. Obama's efforts to reconcile the conflicting experiences and feelings he had as he navigated these psychological currents have a great deal to do with how he has approached his presidency. Obama is a president of enormous intelligence and considerable political skill, but his presidency has faltered in part because of the mismatch between his redemptive and transformational ambitions and the public's willingness and readiness to support them.