Letters From My Father: Writing of Obama Sr. Found

Documents, unread by the president, tell the tale of a deeply complicated man
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2016 8:37 AM CDT
Updated Jun 19, 2016 9:07 AM CDT
In this 2008 file photo, a photo of Barack Obama Sr., father of President Barack Obama, hangs on the wall of his step-grandmother Sarah Obama's house in the village of Kogelo, Kenya.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
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(Newser) – On this Father's Day, the New York Times takes a look at one of the more notable absentee fathers in modern American history vis a vis a box of his writings found a few years ago in Harlem. "The papers are rich; they tell a fascinating, traditional, self-made man’s story," says the director of the Schomburg Center, which holds the letters the Times says "would help change the course of American history." The self-made man in question is one Barack Hussein Obama Sr., who put words to paper over and over again in his quest to get from a humble upbringing in Kenya to an education in America. "It has been my long cherished ambition to further my studies in America," he wrote in a 1958 letter seeking financial aid.His letters carried him to the University of Hawaii, where he excelled as a student leader who earned an honors degree in three years—and met and married Ann Dunham and fathered the 44th president of the United States in 1961.

“The people around here have made me feel at home,” Obama wrote during that time, adding that invitations to "give several speeches on Africa and Kenya" as well as to come to dinner abounded. In 1963, however, there was no mention of either wife or child as the elder Obama applied for scholarships at Harvard, and by 1964 the money dried up and the elder Obama went home to Kenya, abandoning his son and his dreams alike. As for that son, the Schomburg Center notes that it has offered to let the younger Obama read the papers; the president, who has oft spoken of the pain caused by his father's abandonment, has yet to respond other than via a rep who says he'd be interested after his term in office is up. The Times has all the documents here. (Read more Barack Obama Sr. stories.)

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