Yet as Obama told it in "Dreams From My Father," he sometimes felt tempted to sell out during his time at Business International. After getting a promotion, Obama wrote, "I had my own office, my own secretary, money in the bank. Sometimes, coming out of an interview with Japanese financiers or German bond traders, I would catch my reflection in the elevator doors -- see myself in a suit and tie, a briefcase in hand -- and for a split second I would imagine myself as a captain of industry, barking out orders, closing the deal, before I remembered who it was that I had told myself I wanted to be and felt pangs of guilt for my lack of resolve."
Maraniss discovered most of that wasn't true; while Obama did have a tiny office, he didn't have his own secretary, didn't meet with financiers and bond traders, didn't even wear a suit to work. But the one true thing in that passage is Obama's antipathy for the business world.
And Barack isn't the only Obama who feels that way. Over the last few years, Michelle Obama has often described their mutual distaste for business. As she tells it, as newly minted graduates of prestigious law schools, both she and her spouse could have cashed in with high-paying jobs at wealthy corporations. It was enticing, but they chose another course.
"We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we're asking young people to do," Mrs. Obama said at a campaign stop in Ohio in February 2008. "Don't go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need..."
The first lady still says that sort of thing. In a commencement speech at Oregon State University last week, she described how she once had a "corporate" job with "all the traditional markers of success: the fat paycheck, the fancy office," but it left her unfulfilled. So she fled the business world -- as did her husband -- and she now urges others to leave as well.
It's a way of viewing business, and life, that could not be more different from Mitt Romney's, whose father actually was a captain of industry, and who grew up to be one, too. When it comes to business, it's hard to imagine a clearer choice between candidates.