Barack Spoke in My Church This Morning

The bishopric counselor announced the speakers, and the youth speaker was a young man named Thomas. Thomas is the president of our Teachers’ Quorum and a sophomore in high school. As part of his introduction, the counselor mentioned that Thomas’ friends at high school had taken to calling him “Barack.” I hadn’t thought of it before, but I immediately realized it was a clever nickname.

Thomas is a young black man, with an African father (his father is from Ghana and is a counselor in our SP) and an anglo mother. He used to wear a huge afro, but now he wears his hair short. He has a thin frame. And he’s a voracious reader and highly intelligent.

After the sacrament service was over I was chatting with the bishopric counselor who had shared that tidbit of information with the congregation, and he told me that on Halloween Thomas had gone to school wearing a suit and a Vote for Obama button, and apparently that was the genesis of his new nickname. I walked by the sacrament preparation closet, and as the boys were putting the trays away I heard one of our other young black men referring to Thomas as Barack with no hint of humor or irony, suggesting it had become an established nickname.

As I thoght about it, I was so pleased that this young man had found such a positive role model to emulate. As I said, he’s an intelligent young man, a quality often not appreciated in high school culture. He’s not an athlete. And yet he had embraced the image of the president elect, and his classmates had responded to that in a positive way. Just a few short years ago, who would have thought such a thing could happen?

So I was very happy to listen to the youth talk today, given by a young man now known among his peers as “Barack.”


  1. very nice.

  2. Cool story. Even cooler that it’s happening in Mormondom, where some people are telling their children that Obama is a terrorist. (ick)

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is very, very cool. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Terry Foraker says:

    #2: It’s happening in our ward, where certain wags (and their kids) are talking about how “Obama Osama” has already targeted undesirables for extermination.

  5. I love it!

  6. The name Barack has a good meaning, it comes from the same Semitic root as the Hebrew “Baruch” which is the verb To Bless, i.e. Blessed!

  7. Jessawhy #2 and Terry #4 – While I delight in Kevin’s account of what’s happening in his ward, I’m afraid that your account is just as common. Yesterday’s Washington Post had a story about Obama’s plan to create 2.1 million jobs through infrastructure and sustainability related work. When my home teacher visited last evening he had interpreted that story to mean that Obama was going to hire 2.1M people for his security detail. Although he may have been facetiously making that statement, other statements he made indicated a deep disdain for the president elect and made bold predictions about the failure of his presidency even though it will be another 60 days before he takes the oath of office.

    I am confident and hopeful that Obama’s patient, thoughtful manner will equate to success in dealing with our current national crises which will, in turn, change at least some hearts and minds. Many thanks to Kevin for starting my Monday morning with this positive message of hope and change.

  8. My two year old wore the same Halloween costume (my husband is from the same tribe as Obama’s father) both in the neighborhood and to our Church party. It was very well-received. I delight in the addition of Barack Obama to our government and history–it doesn’t mean much to my little kids right now, but it may some day.

  9. ESO: Your cover is blown!

    From your friends in Payson. :)

  10. Say hi to everyone in Payson for me (especially all of my cousins in Santaquin) – assuming you mean Payson, UT.

  11. Martin Willey says:

    The power of the Obama role model is one of the great benefits of the 2008 election. And it extends beyond the president-elect. Think of how wonderful it will be to see Michelle Obama interacting with world leaders and their families, and using the first-lady bully pulpit for good for the next 8 (I hope) years. And that Obama family! It is going to be such a step forward for our society.

  12. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    What a great story, Kevin! I’m so pleased to read about it. And I’m grateful I haven’t had to hear anything negative about Obama at church (outside of the blogosphere)…

  13. I’m in the same stake as Kevin so I know the situation, but I have never met his son, as I am in a different ward. This brother is one of the better men I have ever met. I would suggest to my son that this man is a better role model than Obama.

    My own son is black (adopted) and I’m not sure I would suggest Obama as a role model, but the next few years will be telling. I’m an ideolog (sp?), so race rarely comes into my focus. But then, I’m also told that by not paying that much attention to race is in itself racist.

    My head hurts.

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