Barack Obama on how uncovering his past helped him plan his future

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The former president of the United States was at a crossroads in his life when he wrote his first book, Dreams from My Father

I was in my early 30s when I wrote Dreams from My Father. At the time, I was a few years out of law school. Michelle and I were newly married and just beginning to think about having kids. My mother was still alive. And I was not yet a politician.

I look back now and understand that I was at an important crossroads then, thinking hard about who I wanted to be in the world and what sort of contribution I could make. I was passionate about civil rights, curious about public service, full of loose ideas, and entirely uncertain about which path I should take. I had more questions than answers. Was it possible to create more trust between people and lessen our divides? How much did small steps toward progress matter – improving conditions at a school, say, or registering more people to vote – when our larger systems seemed so broken? Would I accomplish more by working inside existing institutions or outside of them?

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