At Downstate Medical Center, where I have taught for many years, one of the courses that first-year medical students have to take is an anatomy class. There they are shown how to cut open and dissect the remains of people who have donated their bodies to science so that students can learn the art of medicine. However, in that anatomy lab, little or no attention is paid to the spirit of that once-living soul. I believe that this experience could be more rewarding if a course in human spirituality was also presented at the same time. Students who are studying to become physicians are taking, as President Barack Obama would say, a “shellacking.”

Recently, after the midterm elections were tallied, Obama stated that he had taken a shellacking. By this, I think he meant that running the U.S. government had turned out to be different from his dream of being the nation’s leader. The press took up the word shellacking and presented in pictures and words that the president had been defeated in what he wanted to accomplish.

Watching and hearing this scenario in the media, I decided that I would have to dissect the word shellacking in order to improve upon his image. When the word shellacking is broken down, we wind up with two smaller words: “shell” and “lacking.” Obama’s shell is filled with magnificent achievements. It is not lacking. Just consider the contents of his life’s shell:

  • 1961: Born in Hawaii to Ann Dunham, PhD, and Barack Obama Sr., a native Kenyan and Harvard graduate.
  • 1967: Attends school in Indonesia. (He is still able to speak the language today.)
  • 1971: Returns to Hawaii and enrolls at Punahou School.
  • 1979: Enters Occidental College in Los Angeles.
  • 1981: Enters Columbia University in New York, graduating with a degree in political science.
  • 1985-88: Visits Kenya and later enters Harvard Law School.
  • 1990: Becomes the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review and graduates from law school with honors.
  • 1992: While working as an attorney in Chicago, meets and marries Michelle and chooses to worship at Union Church of Christ, asserting his Christianity.
  • 1995: Publishes “Dreams From My Father”; his mother dies of ovarian cancer.
  • 1996: Wins election to the Illinois state Senate, where he serves for seven years.
  • 1999: His first daughter, Malia, is born.
  • 2000: Runs for U.S. representative from Illinois and loses.
  • 2001: His second daughter, Sasha, is born.
  • 2004: Elected U.S. senator from Illinois and receives overwhelming applause for his speech at the Democratic Convention.
  • 2005: Receives Fight for Freedom Award from the NAACP.
  • 2006: Publishes “The Audacity of Hope,” which becomes a New York Times bestseller.
  • 2007: Announces his run for president.
  • 2008: Wins Iowa caucus and South Carolina primary; continues winning primaries and caucuses in 31 more states and territories.
  • 2008: Gains the Democratic nomination and wins the election.
  • 2009: Inaugurated as the 44th U.S. president, becoming the first African-American to achieve this goal.
  • 2012: Re-elected as president of the United States, achieving an historic second term.