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Last week I read David Blum’s interview of President Obama for Amazon’s Kindle Singles. The interview was interesting, and it provided some insight into the president’s goals for the remainder of his term. He talked about the American dream. He talked about jobs. He talked about how Americans need to realize that we accomplish more together, i.e. through government, than we do as individuals. The interview gave me the impression that the president is a sincere man, who believes that things will change for the better if he can get the message out.

Obama talked about many things, but he avoided saying much about himself, and in the introduction, Blum notes that the president was reticent to speak about his own life. At a number of points in the interview, Blum attempts to steer the conversation towards more personal matters. He asks about Obama’s upbringing, his family, and his daughters. Each time, the president gets back to his talking points.

At one point in the interview, Blum asks:

Part of the American dream—even if you’re poor, or lower-middle class—involves yearning for tangible things you can’t afford. Were there things, when you were growing up, that you yearned for that you couldn’t afford?

Obama replies:
I think every kid has some fantasies about what they’d like to have. But I can’t tell you how many people I meet in my generation who will say, “Looking back on it, we didn’t have a lot, but we didn’t feel poor.” The reason was because the American dream involved some pretty basic stuff.

He goes on to describe the American dream, and he never satisfies our curiosity about what his own dreams were.

This bit struck me because the previous day I had pondered this very question. Do you know what I wanted when I was growing up? Hamburger buns.

In the Garbarino household of the 1980s, we probably ate hamburgers about once a week, but we ate them on sandwich bread. In my mind, proper hamburger buns were a luxury item. Rich people ate their hamburgers on buns. Perhaps common folk could eat buns on special occasions, like weddings or funerals. As a child, I viewed hamburger buns as a status symbol.

Honestly, I’m not sure why my parents never bought buns. I suspect that buns were an unnecessary expense, but possibly it was merely poor planning. Regardless, as a child I wanted buns, but either rightly or wrongly, I assumed that buns were for people with more money.

I’m happy to say that today I can afford to buy hamburger buns. I should also note that now that I’m out of the house, my parents buy hamburger buns too. Contrary to what some politicians imply, America’s standard of living has increased considerably over the last thirty years.

I wonder if in the late 60s and early 70s little Barry Obama ate his hamburgers on sandwich bread.  I wonder if he wanted buns. Whatever tangible things he longed for as a child, he can afford them now. That’s the great thing about America. Sometimes dreams come true. I suppose the president didn’t want to dwell on his fulfilled dreams while so many Americans are still working on theirs, but I, for one, would have been interested in hearing a more personal story. Of course maybe that’s because my dreams have been fulfilled too. I have hamburger buns.

[Cross-posted at  Reflection and Choice ]

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