Last month, ahead of President Obama's visit to Kenya, my colleague Kevin Sieff journeyed to his ancestral village in western Kenya where his father was born.
There Sieff encountered Barack Obama Okoth, one of many Barack Obamas named after the U.S. president in the wake of his political success. Here's what the young Barack Obama told the Post about the man in the White House:
“He lives in America, and he’s a king,” the 7-year-old said after a long pause. It’s easy to understand why the young Barack would think so. He attends Senator Barack Obama Primary School, a stop on the Barack Obama Safari Tour, near a hotel that offers a Barack Obama Suite.
The young lad, who says he wants to be a doctor, is far from the only kid in town named Barack Obama.
A Guardian reporter this week met some others, including 5-year-old Barack Obama Oyoo.
"When I’m president like Obama I’ll ride in big cars and big plane," said Oyoo. The U.S. president's name seems to a carry a totemic power on its own.
"In my child I’m seeing President Obama," Oyoo's father tells the Guardian. "That name alone is like magic. When it is mentioned, it stirs something in me. I know he will go far. He’s not somebody to remain down here."
Sieff charts the town's mix of hope and hardship:
If [the President] returns to Kogelo, he’ll find a village lifted by its association with the world’s most powerful man but still wrestling with disease and poverty. He’ll find people proud enough to name their boys Barack Obama but disappointed that he waited until the seventh year of his presidency to return to his father’s homeland.
“When he comes, we will present our problems,” said Edwin Okoth, Barack Obama Okoth’s father, his hands on his son’s shoulders.
"The name Obama makes me very proud,” 8-year-old Malcolm Obama tells the Guardian. But it comes with a burden: "If I met Obama I’d ask him to educate me, and also to educate the rest of my family so that I become a doctor. And I will work hard, and help my nation."
Barack Otieno Obama, another local boy, has more humble aspirations. "I will shake his hand with my own hand," he says.