Barack Obama and Me
by ronrichmond | on May 11, 2012
Barack Obama and Me
You notice I didn’t say “The President and Me”.
Because I’ve never met the President
Since he became the President.
But life is strange
And throws up surprises
In the most unlikely situations.
Events that meant nothing at the time
But with time,
can take a whole new meaning.
Barack Obama – does he look like me?
It started with my lovely daughter Leilani
Who used to be PA to the late Clarence Clemons
the famous saxophonist of Bruce Springsteen’s band.
She called me about 6 years ago, and said
“Dad, were you planting wild seeds when
you were at the University of Hawaii
in the very early sixties?”
Me: “What are you talking about?”
“Well, Barack Obama looks a lot like you!”
Me: “Most unlikely, …and
I don’t remember any pregnant girls
in my circle of friends”.
But I was intrigued.
Fortunately a little bit of research showed
that he was born 5 months
before I arrived in Honolulu.
So count me out.
(And Leilani has lost any bragging rights).
The intrigue with Barack Obama continues
The research did bring back some memories.
I had started the first East West Center soccer team in 1962.
There were players from Fiji, Borneo, Malaysia, Burma,
Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, USA, Ghana, and Nigeria …..
but none from Kenya (to my recollection).
So I couldn’t place Obama Snr in my mind
or amongst my circle of friends.
In 1962 I had an Indonesian girlfriend, Maria
so a number of Indonesians became my friends
including a guy called Lolo Soetoro
who would become quite prominent later on.
In 1963 I had an American Vietnamese girlfriend, Annie
so my circle of friends moved away from Indonesians
although some of them still came to see our soccer games.
But I also lost touch with Lolo Soetoro, although
sometime between 1966 and 1968 (I can’t remember exactly)
he would bring a mother and child with him
to watch our soccer game.
As a key player on the field you don’t really notice the spectators
Except for a face or two (like Lolo’s)
But you quickly forget
Because the actual game is what occupies your mind.
So my recollection and thinking stopped there.
It was nice to think that I overlapped with Barack Obama’s
childhood times in Hawaii.
I couldn’t recall meeting his mother at any time.
And I couldn’t place his father.
So that’s what they were
Just a nice accidental overlap of our time in Hawaii.
Fast forward 2010 – I meet Barack Obama’s sister
In June 2010, the East West Center
celebrated its 50th anniversary.
We had a big reunion.
Over 500 of us old-timers turned up.
It was a great gathering of old friends.
Amongst those attending was my very first
girlfriend of 50 years ago, Maria.
We have met at conferences during those
years and have always remained firm friends.
Well, Maria had a surprise for me.
She said Barack Obama’s sister, Maya
wanted to meet me.
I said I would love to meet her
but what’s the special interest in me.
She said it was because
I was one of the few people still around
who knew her father, Lolo Soetoro, quite well.
So it was my friend Lolo Soetoro
who had married Ann Dunham
and become Barack Obama’s stepfather.
So it was a really pleasant experience
to meet Maya Soetoro Ng
daughter of my friend Lolo Soetoro
and sister of President Barack Obama.
She is a real bundle of energy
and an extremely pleasant personality
so giving of herself
who was kept extremely busy
promoting the reunion events.
Now while I have not met President Barack Obama
I might have seen him as a young child
At least I can boast of a hug from his beautiful sister
To bring back memories of an old friend
Where is your Barack Obama moment?
At the East West Center we were lucky
to have the opportunity to meet
Presidents, Vice Presidents, Ambassadors
from various countries.
But we didn’t anticipate that
it might become a nursery for a
future President of the United States.
And some of us were lucky enough
to be a part of that era.
So where is your Barack Obama story
Is there someone in your family, or neighborhood
that rose to prominence
out of the blue!
And all you could say was
“Hey, I remember him/her as a toddler”
Like we will soon have stories in the Empower Network
of people we’ve never heard of before
making it on to the stage
by the hundreds
and we might only recognize them
from their blogs that we have read.
In the Empower Network
we all have the same chance to succeed
with leaders who were down and out
but emerged scathed but unbowed
to make a name for themselves
and to show us the way.