June 7th, 2020


Presidents in Their Youth: Barack Obama

Barack Obama and Chester Alan Arthur have at least two things in common. Both were President of the United States, and both faced accusations of being foreign born. But despite accusations leveled by persons called "birthers" (including the current President Donald Trump), the evidence is clear that Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu on August 4, 1961 at the Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital at 1611 Bingham Street. He was named for his father and he birth was announced in contemporary editions of rhe Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.


Obama's parents met in 1960 while they were both students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Obama's father, Barack Obama, Sr., was that university's first foreign student from an African nation. He came from Oriang' Kogelo, Rachuonyo North District, in the Nyanza Province of western Kenya. Obama's mother was Stanley Ann Dunham, better known as Ann, who had been born in Wichita, Kansas. The couple were married on the Hawaiian island of Maui on February 2, 1961.

After their child's birth, Obama's father continued his education at the University of Hawaii. Ann Dunham took her son to Seattle, Washington, where she took classes at the University of Washington from September 1961 to June 1962. She and her son lived in an apartment in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Obama's father graduated from the University of Hawaii with a B.A. in economics, and then left Hawaii in June 1962, moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts for graduate study in economics at Harvard University at the start of the next academic year. Ann Dunham returned with her son to Honolulu and in January 1963 resumed her undergraduate education at the University of Hawaii.

Obama's mother filed for divorce in January 1964, and the divorce was not contested. After Barack Obama, Sr. graduated from Harvard University with an A.M. in economics and in 1965, he returned to Kenya. During her first year back at the University of Hawaii, Dunham met Lolo Soetoro. He was a surveyor from Indonesia who was attending the Manoa campus. He had come to Hawaii in September 1962 on an East-West Center grant to study at the University of Hawaii. He went on to receive an M.A. in geography in June 1964. Dunham and Soetoro were married on March 15, 1965, on Molokai. They returned to reside in Honolulu.


Soetoro received two one-year extensions of his J-1 visa before returning to Indonesia on June 20, 1966. Dunham and her son moved in with her parents as she continued with her studies. She went on to receiver her B.A. in anthropology in August 1967, while her son attended kindergarten in 1966–1967 at Noelani Elementary School.

In 1967, Obama and his mother moved to Jakarta where Soetoro was living. The family lived in a newly built neighborhood in the Menteng Dalam administrative village of the Tebet subdistrict in South Jakarta for two and a half years. Soetoro worked on a topographic survey for the Indonesian government. Ann Dunham taught English from January 1968 to December 1969, and also served as an assistant director of the U.S. government-subsidized Indonesia-America Friendship Institute. Barack Obama attended the Indonesian-language Santo Fransiskus Asisi (St. Francis of Assisi) Catholic School up to part of 3rd grade. His caretaker was a transgender woman named Turdi (later changed to Evie) that Dunham had met at a cocktail party in 1969. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's half-sister, was born in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 15, 1970.

In 1970, Soetoro took a new job at the Union Oil Company's government relations office. From January 1970 to August 1972, Ann Dunham taught English and was a department head and a director of the Institute of Management Education and Development. Obama attended the Indonesian-language government-run Besuki School for part of 3rd grade and for 4th grade. He also joined the Cub Scouts.

In the summer of 1970, Obama returned to Hawaii for an extended visit with his maternal grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham. In mid-1971, he moved back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents and attend Punahou School starting in fifth grade. In December 1971, his father, Barack Obama Sr., came for a visit from Kenya for a month. It was the last time Obama would see his father. His mother visited her son and parents in Honolulu from late-1971 to January 1972. Later that year, Dunham returned to Hawaii from Indonesia, bringing along Maya, Obama's half-sister. Dunham began graduate study in anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. From sixth grade through eighth grade at Punahou, Obama lived with his mother and Maya. Ann Dunham completed her studies at the University of Hawaii for an M.A. in anthropology in December 1974.[36] After three years in Hawaii, she and Maya returned to Jakarta in August 1975, where she completed her contract with the Institute of Management Education and Development and started anthropological field work. Obama remained in Hawaii living with his grandparents in Honolulu and continue his studies at Punahou School for his high school years.

In his memoir Obama wrote of his mixed-race background: "That my father looked nothing like the people around me—that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk—barely registered in my mind." In his memoirs, Obama admits that during his teenage years he used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine and that he was also a member of the "choom gang", a self-named group of friends that spent time together, getting high occasionally, but he stated he did not any illegal drugs since he was a teenager.


Some of his former classmates attending Punahou School describe Obama as mature for his age as a high school student. Of his formative years in Honolulu, Obama wrote: "The opportunity that Hawaii offered—to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect—became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear."