In a just-unearthed 1995 interview, Barack Obama describes America as "a land of strangers" where, despite all the rhetoric about the "browning of America," the melting pot remains a far-off dream for most -- with different communities as foreign to one another as distant countries. He discusses how white executives and inner-city residents alike must take more responsibility for themselves and each other.
But the truly amazing moment comes when Obama discusses his belief that his own personal salvation is inseparable from the redemption of the whole nation. You can hear Obama already fusing the personal and political into a spiritual mission like no other in modern politics. He's a man on fire.
The prolific veteran journalist Bill Thompson of Eye on Books has given Huffington Post readers the first chance to hear this extraordinary interview.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
We live in a land of strangers. Blacks and whites don't know each other, they don't know their stories very well. Within my own family, even in the best-meaning family, there's a tremendous scope for misunderstanding, for suspicion, for fear. Until I understood what those fears were, what those hopes were, and what those dreams were, I think I was destined to - potentially, at least - repeat some of the mistakes that my parents and grandparents had made.
I talk a lot in the book about my attempts to renew the dream that both of my parents had. I worked as a community organizer in Chicago, [and] was very active in low-income neighborhoods working on issues of crime and education and employment, and seeing that in some ways certain portions of the African-American community are doing as bad, if not worse, and recognizing that my fate remained tied up with their fates. That my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country.
I think that whether you are a white executive living out in the suburbs, who doesn't want to pay taxes to inner-city children for them to go to school, or you're an inner-city child who doesn't want to take responsibility for keeping your street safe and clean, both of those groups have to take some responsibility if we're going to get beyond the kinds of divisions that we face right now.