Barack Obama is known for his swagger. He knows how to cut a rug, he can carry an Al Green tune, and he can hold his game on the basketball court. But the former President of the United States can write “poetically.” A collection of love letters to a previous girlfriend during his college days is on display at a university and the world is swooning over Barack’s penchant for poetry, so to speak.
According to the Washington Examiner, about 30 personal pages written by President Barack Obama to his college girlfriend are being showcased at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.
The Emory site wrote that Barack Obama’s love letters to Alexandra McNear were penned by the future POTUS over two years (1982-1984). Emory’s Laura Douglas-Brown wrote that the letters are available for historians and students on Oct. 20 to review and build a body of work around the storied life of the first African American president. The nine missives in the institution’s collection “reveal a young man grappling with his place in the world,” wrote Douglas-Brown.
Barack Obama’s love letters to his girlfriend chronicle the ups and downs of a long distance relationship with McNear. The pair met in California at Occidental College over the summer of ’82 and kept in touch when Obama took a leap of faith and moved to New York a short time later.
“I trust you know that I miss you, that my concern for you is as wide as the air, my confidence in you as deep as the sea, my love rich and plentiful,” Obama wrote in the first of nine letters written to McNear while he pursued a Political Science degree at Columbia University.
The curator took the liberty to separate the Obama love letters by themes over the course of Barack’s relationship with McNear: Beginnings, Grappling, Resistance and Creation, Roots and Routes, and Transitions.
Rose Library director, Rosemary Magee points out that the notes from Obama make it possible for many to identify with his plight as a young college student trying to navigate the new landscapes while attempting to find ones’ place in society. As a child of biracial parents, Barack Obama had to contend with his racial identity.
“Caught without a class, a structure, or a tradition to support me, in a sense the choice to take a different path is made for me.”
“The only way to assuage my feelings of isolation are to absorb all the traditions, classes, make them mine, me theirs. Taken separately, they’re unacceptable and untenable.”
Magee says the love letters from Obama “reveal the search of a young man for meaning and identity. While intimate in a philosophical way, they reflect primarily a college student coming to terms with himself and others.” Later, when transitioning to the business world, Obama talks about his inability to afford postage and how he was compelled to “bounce a check” to utilize a typewriter.
“In fact, they show the same kind of yearnings and issues that our own students face — and that students everywhere encounter. Thus they will serve as sources of both inspiration and reassurance to people of all ages and backgrounds.”
Obama’s artfully written letters to McNear are penned on just about anything he could express his thoughts: yellow paper, a sheet of loose leaf, an index card, and a spiral notebook.
“I think of you often, though I stay confused about my feelings. It seems we will ever want what we cannot have; that’s what binds us; that’s what keeps us apart.”
“Salaries in the community organizations are too low to survive on right now, so I hope to work in some more conventional capacity for a year, allowing me to store up enough nuts to pursue those interests next,” Obama wrote to McNear in 1983.
In one of his last letters to McNear, it is apparent that the couple settled on a friendship and Obama had moved on in life with a focus on his career, post-college.
“I am not so naïve as to believe that a distinct line exists between romantic love and the more quotidian, but perhaps finer bonds of friendship, but I can feel the progression from one to the other (in my mind).”
A decade after penning his first love letter to then-girlfriend, Barack Obama met his wife and future First Lady Michelle Obama. The pair met at a Chicago law firm where they worked together.
[Featured Image by Yana Paskova/Getty Images]