Edward McLelland beskriver hvor viktig valget av Trinity United Church of Christ i South Chicago var for Obamas karriere:
As a young biracial man building a black identity, Obama found Wright’s Afrocentrism appealing. The first time he visited the church, in 1985, he saw a «Free South Africa» sign on the lawn. With a sermon titled «The Audacity of Hope,» Wright relieved Obama of his agnosticism, gave him the theme of his political career, and introduced him to the preaching style he uses so dramatically on the stump.
But joining a black mega-church was also a quick way for a young man on the move on the South Side of Chicago to address some gaps in his résumé.
It does not seem credible for Obama to claim equal surprise, to claim unfamiliarity with Wright’s more aggressive opinions. Obama quoted Wright at length in «Audacity of Hope» — and took the name of his book from one of the first sermons he heard Wright deliver. As he wrote in «Audacity of Hope,» when he looked through the «Black Value System» that guided Wright’s church, he saw «A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.» That first sermon included a comparison of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, which claimed 69 lives, to Hiroshima.
Obama valgte «blackness» fremfor «middelklassekultur», og det ga ham et ståsted og en identitet, men også en nisse som fulgte med på lasset. Obama møter nå sin egen fortid, det som «made him», skriver McClelland. På Chicagos South Side fant han både radikale svarte prester og revolusjonære hvite som var blitt studenter. En av dem er Bill Ayers, mannen til Bernadette Dhorn, begge ledere av den ekstreme gruppen Weathermen. Ayers har ikke tatt avstand fra sin fortid som militant revolusjonær, i dag ville vi ikke nøle med å kalle det terrorist. Weathermen ranet banker og verditransporter, skjøt en politimann og detonerte en bombe på Capitol Hill. De har mye til felles med dagens terrorister. Likevel er Bill Ayers idag et akseptert medlem av venstreliberale akademia i USA.
One of his first campaign events was at the home of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Ayers and Dohrn were the ’60s most glamorous radical couple: the Bonnie and Clyde of the Weather Underground, they spent 11 years underground after an accidental bombing that destroyed a Greenwich Village townhouse, killing three of their comrades. Ayers came from an upper-class background — his father was CEO of Commonwealth Edison — so when he came in from the cold, he didn’t do prison time, the way some biker toolbox bomber would have. Instead, he became a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and a fixture in Hyde Park liberal circles. The outgoing state senator, Alice Palmer, introduced Obama to local activists at the home of Ayers and Dohrn. Obama later served with Ayers on the board of the Woods Fund, which supports projects in poor Chicago communities. Ayers is also a member of Public Square, which organizes events that combine arts with social justice.
«Bill and Bernardine are respected members of the community,» says a friend of the couple. «He’s extremely involved in education policy nationally.»
Another acquaintance, though, calls him a «narcissist,» because he promoted his memoir «Fugitive Days» by saying, «I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.» Ayers posed for Chicago magazine with an American flag wadded at his feet.
The South Side is responsible for the black nationalist preachers and violent radicals-turned-professors whose sound bites and rap sheets have now mired Obama in the worst patch of his presidential campaign. But without them Obama wouldn’t have had a seat in the state Senate, much less a shot at the White House. And now the black street cred and lefty bona fides they provided, so crucial to Barack Obama’s early local success, are proving corrosive to his national ambitions.