David Garrow’s new biography of Barack Obama, Rising Star, contains this passage from an unpublished paper Obama is said to have written while a Harvard law student:
“[Americans have] a continuing normative commitment to the ideals of individual freedom and mobility, values that extend far beyond the issue of race in the American mind. The depth of this commitment may be summarily dismissed as the unfounded optimism of the average American—I may not be Donald Trump now, but just you wait; if I don’t make it, my children will.”
First of all—heh! Trump gets the last laugh once again.
Second: when will we kill the word “normative”? (Nota bene: I never use the word in the classroom, ever. And I banish it from my writing, except to ridicule it. It’s a sign of intellectual laziness and shallowness.)
Third: “Unfounded optimism” of the average American? Just a minute—I thought one part of the essential American creed is that any “average American” can grow up to be president. Didn’t Obama prove that to be true? So what’s his problem?