Friday, March 23, 2007

From Obama's Past: An Old Classmate, A Surprising Call

What a sad story about a ruined man and a ruined life.  The evils of drug and/or alcohol addiction are hard to overstate.  It can make people do awful things -- like try to blackmail old friends:
Tensions rose when Mr. Kakugawa asked for some money to be wired to him via Western Union, according to both him and Ms. Adler. Ms. Adler brought in senior adviser Robert Gibbs, and together they phoned Mr. Kakugawa last Saturday.

"Sen. Obama really does want to help," Mr. Gibbs told Mr. Kakugawa, according to both men's recollection. The advisers suggested Mr. Kakugawa get help from social-service agencies, and that the Obama office would help with that. But he would not get money, Mr. Gibbs said.

The exchange left Mr. Kakugawa upset. "Everybody's just abandoned me," he says.


From Obama's Past: An Old Classmate, A Surprising Call

In High School, 'Ray' and 'Barry'
Were Friends, Then Took Different Paths
March 23, 2007; Page A1

Sen. Barack Obama had just come off the Senate floor last Thursday, rushing to get to New Hampshire for a weekend of campaigning for president, when his office patched through a call to his cellphone. On the other end was a long-lost high-school friend, Keith Kakugawa, calling from a pay phone in a rundown part of Los Angeles. Mr. Kakugawa was homeless and fresh from a California state prison facility after a third drug-related conviction.

The unexpected phone call marked the surprising re-emergence of a friend from Mr. Obama's past, one of the most compelling characters in Mr. Obama's best-selling memoir of his struggle with his racial identity. In "Dreams From My Father," Mr. Obama described Mr. Kakugawa -- half-black and half-Japanese and native Hawaiian -- as an older-brother figure to Mr. Obama at their exclusive, mostly white Honolulu high school. The two bonded, Mr. Obama wrote, "due in no small part to the fact that together we made up almost half of Punahou's black high school population," in a student body of about 1,700. Mr. Obama called Mr. Kakugawa "Ray" in the book to protect his privacy.


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