This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Yearning To Be Reunited

"Barry? Barry, is this you?"
"Yes ... Who's this?"
"Yes, Barry ... this is your Aunt Jane. In Nairobi. Can you hear me?"
"I'm sorry -- who did you say you were?"
"Aunt Jane. Listen, Barry, your father is dead. He is killed in a car accident. Hello? Can you hear me? I say,  your father is dead. Barry, please call your uncle in Boston and tell him. I can't talk now, okay, Barry. I will try to call you again ..."
At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me, both more and less than a man. He had left Hawaii back in 1963, when I was only two  years old, so that as a child I knew him only through the stories that my mother and grandparents told. They all had their favorites, each one seamless, burnished smooth from repeated use. I can still picture Gramps leaning back in his old stuffed chair after dinner, sipping whiskey and cleaning his teeth with the cellophane from his cigarette pack, recounting the time that my father almost threw a man off the Pali Lookout because of a pipe ...
U.S. President Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father

"It has been my long cherished ambition to further my studies in America."
"The people around here [University of Hawaii] have made me feel at home. [They] called upon me to give several speeches on Africa and on Kenya."
"I rarely get any news here about Africa."
Barack Hussein Obama Sr. letters, 1958 - 1964, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem
Barack Obama is seen with his father Barack Obama Sr in an undated family snapshot from the late 60s or early 70s. Obama's father, originally from Kenya, was killed in an car accident in Kenya in 1982 after returning to Africa.
Barack Obama is seen with his father Barack Obama Sr in an undated family snapshot from the late 60s or early 70s. Obama's father, originally from Kenya, was killed in an car accident in Kenya in 1982 after returning to Africa.   Picture: REUTERS

The letters carry the voice and the thoughts and the experiences of a then-young man from Kenya whose improbable background as a village boy tending goats, walking barefoot to school, but imbued with ambition, intelligence, confidence and audaciousness led him to write to a number of American universities to describe himself as a penniless clerk of 22, able to type 75 words a minute and translate English into Swahili, whose ambition it was to further his education in the United States.

He was looking for some good Samaritan or institute to see their way clear to funding that ambition. And the University of Hawaii took up that challenge, to enable the  young man to travel from his village in Kenya to Hawaii. "I still didn't know the man my father had been", wrote President Obama in his book ... "What had shaped his ambitions?" Having stated which it would seem only logical that if the opportunity presented itself, beyond his long-ago visit to his roots in Kenya, he would grasp it.

Barack Obama's father's letters were discovered in the archives of the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. What a trove that represented. The scholarship funding he was offered enabled him to travel to the United States to fulfill part of his dream of accomplishing something for himself. The letter-discovery was made in 2013. So, of course the university (Hawaii and Harvard) transcripts, the letters written in Obama Sr.'s hand and other related documents were immediately offered for scrutiny to his son.

The void that President Obama has spoken of, written of, at the absence of his father in his life could be partially filled, finally. He is no longer that teenager struggling to understand in the absence of a father "what it meant to be a man". In Dreams from My Father, Mr. Obama's quest to learn as much as he could about his father by visiting his family in Kenya, he discovered vital background and family contacts, but "I still didn't know the man my father had been".

The Schomburg Center is still awaiting a response from the invitation it issued to the President three years earlier. It was at the University of Hawaii while Mr. Obama was busy with his undergraduate studies in 1960 that he met Ann Dunham, from one of his classes. As a Muslim the senior Obama, though he had a wife and two children in Kenya, was able under Islam, to marry another wife, and so he did when it was discovered that Ann Dunham was pregnant. He remained with his American wife until their child was two, then returned to Kenya.

He aspired to be involved in the Kenyan government in its new independence. While at University of Hawaii he adapted readily to campus life. He had revealed that he hadn't achieved a high school diploma in Kenya, but it appears his intelligence and readiness to focus on academics revealed the value of his intelligence, excelling in classes and coming away with an economics undergraduate degree with honors. He went on to Harvard for a graduate degree and by then was no longer anchored to his American family.

Master's degree in economics in hand, he returned to Kenya. President Obama's uncle, the senior Obama's brother, speaks of the resemblance he sees so acutely obvious between his nephew and his brother; the tenor of his voice, the way he moves and strides along, so like his father. Strangely, for a man who so yearns to have known his father, to have been with him, to have had his guidance, President Obama has shown little inclination to make the effort any longer.

If and when he ever does decide to look a little closer at the mementos of the man who was his father he can access them at Box 214 of the Phelps Stokes Fund collection at the Schomburg storage facility in New York. They're there, waiting for him.

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