Now, I'm astounded to see that the umbrella figures importantly in the book — and it is even an umbrella held over him by another man (his younger brother Bernard). This happens at the end of what is the most dramatic scene in the book, on the last page of the final chapter. Obama, in Africa, falls to the ground between the graves of his father and his grandfather and cries. He's crying about a lack of "a faith that wasn’t new, that wasn’t black or white or Christian or Muslim but that pulsed in the heart of the first African village and the first Kansas homestead—a faith in other people."
And for lack of faith you clung to both too much and too little of your past. Too much of its rigidness, its suspicions, its male cruelties.He expresses the idea that their "male cruelties" should have been moderated by more of "the laughter in Granny’s voice, the pleasures of company while herding the goats, the murmur of the market, the stories around the fire... Words of encouragement. An embrace. A strong, true love." That is, the over-masculinity should have been mixed with more feminine things, things that "could make up for a lack of airplanes or rifles." There's a theory of gender here: "you could never forge yourself into a whole man by leaving those things behind."
For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept. When my tears were finally spent, I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago.... all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brothers’ questions. Their struggle, my birthright.So — as he dramatizes it —it is at the moment when he finds out who he really is that another man suddenly appears and is sheltering him with an umbrella. He's been crying, but now it all makes sense, and — with the prompting of the younger man — he sees that he is okay.
A light rain began to fall, the drops tapping on the leaves above. I was about to light a cigarette when I felt a hand on my arm. I turned to find Bernard squatting beside me, trying to fit the two of us under a bent-up old umbrella.
“They wanted me to see if you were okay,” he said.
I smiled. “Yeah. I’m okay.”
Flash forward, and he's President. He is in the Rose Garden. It starts to rain. No man suddenly appears with an umbrella. He is getting wet and he is President — with plenty of airplanes and rifles and all of the world's greatest military at hand — but he is still getting wet. He has to order the Marine to shelter him. It isn't Bernard squatting with a bent-up old umbrella. It's a Marine in full-dress uniform, with a fine unbent umbrella, which is nevertheless not correct under the official — male, rigid — Marine Corps regulations. Where are the words of encouragement, the embraces, the strong, true love? You could never forge yourself into a whole man by leaving those things behind!
Now, here is the whole world gathered around him. Was there ever anything more unlike the time when he was alone between 2 graves? And yet, back then, the moment a light rain began to fall, his brother was there, sent by others who loved to see if he was okay. And here he is, the center of the whole world's attention, and he had to call for the umbrella. He is not okay.