Previously Unseen Obama Interview from 1993 to be Given New Life

By Lindsey Ellerson

Aug 6, 2009 5:46pm

In October 1993, a relatively unknown 32-year-old lawyer and community activist sat down for a 12-minute interview for a documentary about African-American role models. The film went nowhere, but the interview with that lawyer – Barack Obama – is now part of a new 55-minute film called “Becoming Barack: Evolution of a Leader.” "My general view about politics and running for office is that if you end up being fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve, it is because you got a track record of service in the community,” Mr. Obama says in the 1993 interview. “And I think right now, I am still building up that track record and if it, a point comes where I think that I might do more good in a political office. I might think about it, but that time is certainly in the future." News of the film was first reported by Home Media Magazine, and Bloomberg News’s John McCormick. “Politics does matter,” Mr. Obama insisted in the 1993 interview. “It can make the difference in terms of a benefits check. It can make the difference in terms of school funding. Citizens can’t just remove themselves from that process. They actually have to engage themselves and not just leave it to the professionals.” Describing his leadership of a voter registration drive the previous year focused on African-American voters, Mr. Obama says, “In a media age like this, you really have to reach out to young people and show that registration was hip, was popular, was trendy.” That voter registration drive in 1992 added 150,000 new black voters. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Illinois, and President Bill Clinton were both victorious in Illinois that year. Obama describes how, in the midst of writing his memoir Dreams From My Father, he initially turned down the offer to work for Project Vote, though the Democratic nomination of Braun to the Senate changed his mind. “At that point, I realized that this realized that this presented an opportunity in Illinois to enfranchise and engage a lot of African-American voters that previously had not been involved,” he says. “Our task was simple. It was to get disenfranchised communities, minority communities, low-income communities, to turn out to vote.” Speaking of African-American leadership at another point, Mr. Obama says “the burden is on all the political leadership in the black community to operate with clarity and integrity.” Zeke Gonzales — a then-21-year-old aspiring filmmaker — shot the 1993 interview. He couldn’t get funding for the project, however, and he stored the film in a vault. After President Obama’s Inauguration, Gonzalez met with producer Stuart Goldman. Goldman added a number of other elements including an interview with Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s half sister shot during then-Sen. Obama's 2006 visit to Kenya. He also added clips from a 1986 WMAQ-Chicago radio story about the then-25-year-old’s community activism and a clip from an interview when Mr. Obama was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. Publicity materials for the film promise that it “presents a close-up, never-seen perspective” of the 44th president. “Even during this early period in his career, a vision of hope for "the world as it should be" shone brightly. But along the way, he realized that gaining power was the most certain path toward creating change with lasting impact.” The film is being distributed through Little Dizzy Home Video.  "It isn't as if the Obama transformed the South Side of Chicago," Goldman told Politics Daily’s Lynn Sweet.  "The story is how the South Side transformed Obama." -jpt

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