In Barack Obama’s stump speeches, his mother is little but a single mom, a cancer victim, a white woman from Kansas. But in life, Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro was a fascinating figure, a globe-trotting free spirit desperate to help the world. Soetoro never lived to see her son’s political ascendance, but friends see in Obama his mother’s intelligence and morality, the New York Times reports.
Seotoro was unconcerned with society’s view of her, twice jumping into then-taboo inter-racial marriages. “She had a world view, even as a young girl. It was embracing the different,” one friend recalls. Raising Obama in Indonesia, she would play for him speeches by Martin Luther King and Mahalia Jackson. “What is best in me, I owe to her,” Obama once wrote.