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Americas

The making of a leader

Text by Mary MAC CARTHY

Latest update : 2009-01-20

While Barack Obama takes office as the 44th president of the U.S., Americans are fascinated by his rich and diverse personal background, surprising even in a country made up of immigrants.

Barack Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was an independent, open-minded woman, an anthropologist by training.  Born in Kansas, she moved several times with her parents , as they looked for work - first to California, then Texas, and Washington State - before finally settling in Hawaii, in 1960.

In a Russian class at the University of Hawaii, Stanley Ann met a Kenyan named Barack Obama (Senior), the first African student on the campus.

In 1961 they married. Stanley Ann soon gave birth to the future president of the United States. Two years later, Barack Sr. left his wife and child in order to continue his studies at Harvard.

Stanley Ann later married an Indonesian student, Lolo Soetoro. In 1967, the young Barack and his mother moved to Indonesia, to meet up with Seotero, who had to return home a year earlier. The family lived in Jakarta.

In the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, Barack was a student for two years at a Muslim school, where the other students called their American classmate "Barry".

The next two years, Barack attended a Catholic school, and his family grew. Stanley Ann gave birth to a daughter, Maya, nine years Barack's junior.

1971. Barack headed back to Honolulu. For three years, he lived with his maternal grandparents, before his mother and half-sister also returned to Hawaii. Barack pursued his studies at a prestigious private school, Punahou.

For college, Barack first went to Los Angeles. He soon transferred to Colombia University in New York, and later attended Harvard Law School.

It wasn't until adulthood that Barack got to know his father's side of the family. In the late 1980s, he went to Kenya for the first time, wanting to learn about the father he hardly knew - a man who had seven other children, and who had died in 1982, in a car accident.
 

Date created : 2009-01-20

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