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And what if Obama had become a Parisian artist?
What would the world be like if Obama had become an artist in Paris and not the first black president of the UnitedStates. Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP, Miss Shari Flickr

And what if Obama had become a Parisian artist?

Joshua Melvin · 26 Mar 2014, 17:55

Published: 26 Mar 2014 17:55 GMT+01:00

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What would the world be like today if Barack Obama had eeked out a living as an artist living in Paris rather than becoming the first black president of the most powerful country in the world?

The suggestion sounds ridiculous but a postcard written by Obama itself hints that he once considered a life painting by the River Seine.

In 1988 a 27-year-old Obama, on a trip to Europe sent a postcard to one of his mentors back in Chicago saying something many people have concluded before him: starting a new life in the City of Light was indeed tempting.

“I wander around Paris, the most beautiful, alluring, maddening city I’ve ever seen,” the future president wrote to Cynthia Norris, then the director of the Chicago Archdiocese’s black Catholics office.  “One is tempted to chuck the organizing/political business and be a painter on the banks of the Seine.”

The note also contains a mild self-deprecating remark from the young Obama, who has since become known for his verbal acuity.

“You’ll be amused to know that since I don’t speak a word of French, I’m left speechless most of the time,” he wrote. “Wish you a fruitful summer.”

The youthful missive hit the news on Wednesday as part of a New York Times story that explores Obama’s Catholic ties. It comes one day before, as he swings through Europe on an overseas trip, he is to meet for the first time with Pope Francis in Vatican City.  

(Image: New York Times)

While Paris may have been tempting, Obama didn’t give in. He subsequently asked Norris to write him a recommendation to Harvard Law School, which accepted him. From his education there his political career truly began to take shape, culminating in his election in 2008 as the United States' first black president. 

No regrets there then, we take it Barack?

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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