Obama's Sister Debuts as Campaigner

The Associated Press
Saturday, May 12, 2007; 11:21 PM

HONOLULU -- Maya Soetoro-Ng, debuting Saturday as an enthusiastic campaigner for brother Barack Obama, recalled that he could be "bossy" but was never mean to his little sister.

Soetoro-Ng said their mother, Ann Dunham, had a huge impact on Obama before she died in 1995, especially with her community organizing in Africa and Asia.

"She embraced everybody," said Soetoro-Ng, 36. "There was so much good in her that there wasn't any room for smallness or meanness or violence."

She spoke to more than 100 Obama supporters in the state where the Illinois senator was born. Hawaii's Democratic caucus is scheduled for Feb. 19.

Soetoro-Ng, who was joined by her husband Konrad Ng and their 2-year-old daughter, Suhaila, said they planned to be active in the islands and would campaign on the U.S. mainland if needed in support of her brother's run for president.

Obama was born in Honolulu 45 years ago and lived in one of the country's most diverse metropolitan areas for the better part of 18 years. He spent four childhood years in Indonesia.

After Obama's mother divorced Barack Obama Sr., she married Lolo Soetoro and moved to Indonesia, where she gave birth to Maya. They later moved to Honolulu, where Obama was being looked after by his grandparents.

Soetoro-Ng said she and Obama share the same taste in music, literature and philosophy.

"We both love a good story that captures the human experience in all of its complexities," said Soetoro-Ng, who now teaches history at the private LaPietra Hawaii School for Girls and teaches night classes at the University of Hawaii.

She said Obama helped her recover after her father died in 1987. "He was instrumental in helping me make good decisions and seeing my strengths and helping me to trust my instincts," she said.

Soetoro-Ng read a letter from Obama that said, "Hawaii is a fabulous model for the kind of America I hope this campaign will bring about, a place where different cultures can come together in harmony and a place that rises above the barriers that might divide us."

In his 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father," Obama did recall some discrimination growing up in the islands.

"He's always wrestled with difficult questions," Soetoro-Ng said. "Part of his gift is he will grapple with these childhood questions until he finds answers that will work for him. It's important that he's not afraid of these more difficult questions."


On the Net:

Barack Obama: http://www.barackobama.com/

Hawaii for Obama: http://www.hawaiiforobama.org/

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