Unearthed letters provide intimate look into Barack Obama's relationship with former girlfriend

Alex Lasker, AOL.com

A few recently-unearthed letters have provided historians with a small glimpse into the personal life of former President Barack Obama during his college years.

Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, announced on Thursday that its Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library had obtained nine handwritten letters Obama sent to his former girlfriend, Alexandra McNear, between the years of 1982 and 1984.

According to the New York Times, the pair had met and started dating at Occidental College in Los Angeles before Obama transferred to Columbia University in New York City as a junior.

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In the first letter obtained by Emory, dated September 26, 1982, Obama wrote to McNear from a campus café, where he is was "drinking V8 juice and listening to a badly scratched opera being broadcast."

The future president went on to describe his new school year, including how his favorite class so far was a physics course for non-mathematicians he was taking to fill a science requirement.

Eventually, the letter becomes more metaphorical in nature, with Obama lamenting "how quickly the class lines are being drawn" with old friends stepping into roles that society has prescribed for them.

"I trust you know that I miss you, that my concern for you is as wide as the air, my confidence in you as deep as the sea, my love rich and plentiful," he signed off. "Love, Barack."

Although there is certainly a romantic element to parts of Obama's letters, Rosemary Magee, director of the Rose Library at Emory, believes the notes may provide more of a glimpse into the "search of a young man for meaning and identity" than into an intimate relationship. 

"What we learn about is a young man who is yet to become or even dream about becoming President Obama," Magee said. “It’s a story of a journey over a couple of years about a sense of self-understanding, self-definition and his understanding of himself and place in the world."

"While intimate in a philosophical way, they reflect primarily a college student coming to terms with himself and others," she added.

"These letters aren’t particularly personal," echoed Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University. "You're coming in at these letters at a point in President Obama's and Alex McNear's relationship where you can see the arc of the breakup that’s going to happen. There's no breakup letter per se, but you can see there are a couple of post-breakup letters.

"Their relationship, at the point that we’re reading it, is very intellectual and they're clearly struggling with each other," Gillespie added. "They're both trying to find themselves and they’re having tough intellectual conversations with each other."

The letters will be on display on October 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Woodruff Commons of the Rose Library at Emory.

Read more about them here.

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