The first couple: An intimate portrait
An interview and photographs of the Obamas for a book in 1996 reveals the ideals of a pre-political Barack Obama.
The following is an excerpt; for full story, listen to audio.
In 1996 Barack and Michelle Obama were interviewed and photographed for a book on couples in America, called "Couples, Speaking from the Heart." The pictures didn’t make it into the book and they were filed away in photographer Mariana Cook’s studio until this week, when one of them appeared in "The New Yorker."
Photographer and writer Mariana Cook joins "The Takeaway" to talk about the interview and discuss her images.
Cook reads an excerpt from her interview with Barack Obama where she asked him what he would do if he got into politics, and he gave her this answer:
"My overriding vision is driven by children and what I see happening to children. And as African American, I end up being concerned about children in the inner cities, and what is happening to them, and the complete lack of any kind of stable framework in which they can grow and develop. A lot of that is determined by economics and the life chances and opportunities that they face or their parents face. A lot of it has to do with values, things like family values that are talked about all the time, and bandied about by politicians. But I think values aren't just individual. Values are collective. Children learn values from what they see around them, and if they see that their parents' lives are not valued, or that their community is not valued; if their schools are falling apart, and their streets are falling apart, and their homes are falling apart, and people's lives are falling apart -- because they don't have jobs or opportunity -- then it's very hard for children, out of thin air, to create values for themselves that can sustain them.
'And so I think that my priority is to restore a sense of public values, or a collective value to the debate. And that means recognizing that we are one big family, and that across racial lines, and across class lines, that we have mutual obligations and mutual responsibilities. Maybe that's where the public and the private meet, when it comes to couples or relationships, or families or tribes. But the overriding priority in all those associations is a sense of mutual responsibility and empathy, then being able to put yourself in another person's shoes. That's how the marriage between Michelle and me sustains itself. We can imagine the other person's hopes or pains or struggles. And we have to extend that beyond just the individual families to other people."
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