Obama Reflects on Dogged, Flawed Mom
Reminiscing comes in profile about his time in Indonesia
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Apr 20, 2011 1:05 PM CDT
Barack Obama, 9, is seen with his mother, Ann Dunham, center, his Indonesian step-father, Lolo Soetoro, and his less than 1-year-old sister Maya Soetoro in Jakarta, Indonesia.   (AP Photo/Obama Presidential Campaign)

(Newser) – Barry Obama was just 6 years old when Ann Dunham decided to take him to war-torn Indonesia, and Sunday’s New York Times Magazine examines the reverberations of that decision. On the surface the answer is simple: She was following her second husband, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian native who’d been called back to serve in the army. But the article offers a revealing look at Dunham’s life there. Some tidbits:

  • The young Barack (then Barry) was subject to constant racial discrimination; once, when other children threw rocks at him, Dunham told a friend, “He’s OK. He’s used to it.”
  • When Lolo got a job with a US oil company, Dunham refused to socialize with the wealthy American wives of the other execs. She once complained to a friend that Lolo “was becoming more American every day.”
  • One former servant for the couple says that Dunham once emerged from an argument with her husband with a bloody nose—though author Janny Scott notes that no one else even hinted at any abuse in the relationship.

But perhaps the most interesting part is Obama’s surprisingly candid reflections on his mother’s parenting flaws. “She was a very strong person in her own way,” he says. But “she was not a well-organized person. And that disorganization, you know, spilled over. Had it not been for my grandparents, I think, providing some sort of safety net financially, being able to take me and my sister on … I think my mother would have had to make some different decisions.” Click here for the NYT Magazine's cover image.

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Showing 3 of 26 comments
coolsmoothla
Apr 20, 2011 4:25 PM CDT
I really try not to speculate but it seems that his mother was disenchanted with American (Caucasian preferably) men. Growing up in the south and seeing all the injustice in the Civil Rights era. It may have given her a reason to seek another way of life. She was not any less flawed than her country in that era. She couldn't have been so flawed, training a son, ALONG WITH HER LOVING PARENTS, who became the POTUS. edited note: ..."The young Barack (then Barry) was subject to constant racial discrimination; once, when other children threw rocks at him, Dunham told a friend, “He’s OK. He’s used to it.”... I can plainly see how she reared the POTUS to be a strong confident man, teaching him to overcome and persevere. Just look at his cool and tactful demeanor when called a socialist, n*gger, chimp, Marxist, Muslim, etc. A virtue that is very important for a president. I am sure that his skills as an organizer was influenced by his mother. She may have had her flaws but her virtues are manifested. She was a strong mother to her son.
CarpeDiem
Apr 20, 2011 3:50 PM CDT
"Had it not been for my grandparents, I think, providing some sort of safety net financially, being able to take me and my sister on …" Oh, so if we dont have billions in wellfare cost, from your own experience, you know you would still today not end up on the street after all. Good people everywhere are willing to help. Barry, you knew this all that time? Interesting.
Reader68389796
Apr 20, 2011 2:50 PM CDT
Mr. Obama's mother was a very pretty woman. She looked so gorgeous in that picture. I guess it's her Irish roots, we all are beautiful people. So our President really is black and white. I LOVE IT.