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A new book about the life of President Barack Obama emphasizes the former president’s commitment to career and political success at the expense of his personal relationships.
“Rising Star” by David J. Garrow “portrays Obama as a man who ruthlessly compartmentalized his existence; who believed early on that he was fated for greatness; and who made emotional sacrifices in the pursuit of a goal that must have seemed unlikely to everyone but him,” according to a Washington Post book review. “Every step -- whether his foray into community organizing, Harvard Law School, even the choice of whom to love -- was not just about living a life but about fulfilling a destiny.”
The book highlights a long-term relationship that Obama had with Sheila Miyoshi Jager, whom he met and lived with in Chicago years before he met Michelle Robinson, his future wife.
Jager, who was briefly mentioned only as one of a few former girlfriends in Barack Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams from my Father,” studied anthropology in college like Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham.
Jager said Obama proposed to her in 1986, but her parents said no because they believed that she, two years younger than Obama, was too young to wed. The two remained a couple and continued conversations about marriage.
Jager said the 25-year-old Obama changed significantly the next year.
According to Garrow, Jager, who is of Dutch and Japanese descent, and Barack Obama initially bonded over their multicultural backgrounds, but the two were pushed apart by Obama’s tunnel-visioned desire to advance in the political world and his growing focus on his black identity and dismissal of his white roots, Jager said.
“He became ... so very ambitious ... very suddenly,” she told Garrow. “I remember very clearly when this transformation happened, and I remember very specifically that by 1987, about a year into our relationship, he already had his sights on becoming president.
“The marriage discussions dragged on and on ... (but there was) torment over this central issue of his life ... race and identity ... (The) resolution of his black identity was directly linked to his decision to pursue a political career.”
Garrow claims that Obama ultimately believed that he couldn’t pursue a more serious relationship with Jager in part because of racial issues. Though they continued to see one another into the 1990s, after Obama started dating Michelle Robinson, their communication became more and more infrequent.
Today, Jager is a professor at Oberlin College.
According to Washington Post reporter Carlos Lozada, Garrow’s “Rising Star” is “harsh but persuasive” as well as accusatory.
Read more at The Washington Post.