Obama letters from 1980s to be made available at Emory University
ATLANTA — If you’ve ever wondered what former President Barack Obama was like when he was younger, Emory University has obtained letters to his then-girlfriend that could reveal more about his youth — and they will be available to the public later this week.
The nine letters written and sent by Obama to his then-girlfriend Alexandra McNear were obtained by Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, where students or visitors can read them in person by appointment when they become available Friday.
Rosemary Magee, the director of the Rose Library, described them to CNN as “very lyrical letters.”
“They reflect the search of meaning of a young man trying to find his place in the world and a sense of identity,” she said in a phone interview. “He has aspirations but he also has deep longings in trying to understand the world and himself. They are particularly appropriate for a college campus.”
Obama wrote the letters during 1982 to 1984 after transferring during college from California’s Occidental College to Columbia University in New York City.
He continued to send letters to McNear even after their relationship appeared turned into more of a friendship, when he took a job at Business International.
The letters, written in cursive on lined or blank paper in black ink, detail his day-to-day of maturing and transitioning, Magee said. He often crossed words out within the text.
In one letter, he writes, according to Emory: “School. What intelligent observations can I glean from the first two weeks? I pass through the labyrinths, corridors, see familiar faces, select and discard classes and activities, fluctuate between unquenchable curiosity and heavy, inert boredom.”
Later, he writes: “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.”
He signed that particular letter, “Love, Barack.”
Magee described them as “intimate letters, but in a very philosophical way.”
“(He was experiencing) a search for meaning and purpose,” she said. “He was sharing what people go through different moments in their lives.”
She added that the letters are particularly great for their university because much of what Obama writes in the letter are what student go through themselves and can relate.
“He was the age of our college students” when he started writing the letters, she said. “When you’re that age, you don’t know how your life is going to unfold for you. And he didn’t.”