Obama letters out

"Your call gave me a boost," reads a letter from a young Barack Obama. It was April 14, 1984, and Obama had transferred to Columbia University in New York City as a junior three years earlier.

By SOPAN DEB
  • Published 20.10.17
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Some of the letters from Barack Obama to his college girlfriend, Alexandra McNear

New York: "Your call gave me a boost," reads a letter from a young Barack Obama. It was April 14, 1984, and Obama had transferred to Columbia University in New York City as a junior three years earlier.

The letter was addressed to Alexandra McNear, his girlfriend at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he had transferred from.

"Somehow a clutter of numbers and appointments and bills had grown over your last letter," wrote Obama, 22 at the time. "Hearing your voice was like discovering a passage in a book I had read a while ago."

This is one of a series of handwritten notes that have been obtained by Emory University's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library in Atlanta and will be available to the public for the first time. There are nine letters in total, all from Obama to McNear, and they shed some light on Obama's formative years - the unease in his own identity, his cerebral nature, sense of isolation, and even the mundane aspects of being a college student. The notes were written from the autumn of 1982 to the spring of 1984.

They have been written about previously, including by David Maraniss in his 2012 biography of Obama. Rosemary M. Magee, the director of the library, declined to reveal who had the letters before the library obtained them, other than to say that library officials were contacted by "someone in the rare book world".

"What we learn about is a young man who is yet to become or even dream about becoming President Obama," Magee said. "It's a story of a journey over a couple of years about a sense of self-understanding, self-definition and his understanding of himself and place in the world."

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE