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Arrival Story: Barack Obama Special Edition

Every week, Jeremy Rosenberg (@LosJeremy) asks, "How did you - or your family before you - wind up living in Los Angeles?"

Today, though, we've still got #Election2012 on the brain. So in lieu of the usual stories you can find here, Rosenberg culled a couple of Arrival Story-style quotes from author-in-chief Barack Obama's bestselling 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance."


On page 96 of the 2004 hardcover re-issue, in the Chapter titled, "Origins," the future President says that he decided to attend Occidental College "mainly because I'd met a girl from Brentwood while she was vacationing in Hawaii with her family."

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Then, two pages later, Obama writes more about Occidental and his L.A.-area impressions:

"Keep your eyes open, [an acquaintance] had warned. It wasn't as easy as it sounded. Not in sunny L.A. Not as you strolled through Occidental's campus, a few miles from Pasadena, tree-lined and Spanish-tiled. The students were friendly, the teachers encouraging. In the fall of 1979, Carter, gas lines, and breast-beating were all on their way out. Reagan was on his way in, morning in America. When you left campus, you drove on the freeway to Venice Beach or over to Westwood, passing East L.A. or South Central without even knowing it, just more palm trees peeking out like dandelions over the high concrete walls. L.A. wasn't all that different from Hawaii, not the part you saw. Just bigger, and easier to find a barber who knew how to cut your hair."

On the next page, 99, Obama writes this:

"Grow up in Compton and survival becomes a revolutionary act. You get to college and your family is still back there rooting for you. They're happy to see you escape; there's no question of betrayal. But I hadn't grown up in Compton, or Watts. I had nothing to escape from except my own inner doubt."

Obama's arrival at Oxy wasn't his first time in the Golden State. As a ten-year-old, the future President and his family took a month-long trip that included a ride down the California coast and to Disneyland (p. 144).

Also: Here's a link to the College's "Obama at Oxy" webpage; here's a New Yorker post, "Obama at Occidental," from someone who was there; and here are some Time photos of the future President, from 1980.

Next week, we return to regularly scheduled Arrival Stories... Do you or someone you know have a great Los Angeles Arrival Story to share? If so, then contact Jeremy Rosenberg via: arrivalstory AT gmail DOT com. You can also contact or follow Rosenberg on Twitter @LosJeremy

Top: Barack Obama as a freshman at Occidental College. Photo by Lisa Jack.

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and consultant whose work has appeared in various books, magazines, newspapers, and online.
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