Hawaii and Chicago shaped the Barack Obama we know today in very different ways, David Maranis writes in a detailed look at the candidate's formative years in the Washington Post. Hawaii, multiracial but with its own social stratification, helped form the young Obama's outlook on life, but he found himself as a man in the rough world of Chicago politics.
An influence on Obama's life as big as geography was his extraordinary, peripatetic mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. The candidate's complicated feelings toward this open, loving, but sometimes seemingly naive woman are "central to understanding his political persona today," writes Maranis. "The contrast of an embracing, inclusive sensibility accompanied by an inner toughness and wariness."