President Obama’s maternal half-sister shared her strategies Aug. 14 for educating communities to promote peace and resist oppression.
In a rare speech for her in the nation’s capital, Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng delivered an eloquent and otherwise effective discourse to a receptive audience at the Democratic-oriented Center for American Progress. She is shown at right in my photo after her lecture while she signed Ladder to the Moon, a children’s book she wrote in 2011.
She is a native of Indonesia born to the same mother as the president. She now teaches as an assistant professor of education at the University of Hawaii’s campus at Manoa.
During her lecture the day before her 43rd birthday, she focused first on strategies to fight sex trafficking in India and in other Asian nations. She closed by suggesting more general tips to keep projects sustainable.
“An important part of service is not just to get kids to do good things,” she said, “but to make them think how they have been transformed.” That kind of self-awareness, she said, instills long-term commitment to civic projects.
Her talk provides a change from our usual fare here at Justice Integrity Project and in my book this summer scrutinizing her brother, among other politicians. That work has resulted in such recent columns as President’s Spy Study Plan Prompts Protest and the book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. I am not alone. The New York Daily News ran a story Aug. 14 headlined, Oliver Stone blasts Obama as a ‘snake,’ throws support behind Edward Snowden.
The investigator’s task is partly to expose what’s hidden. But we should also explore the overall environment, with an appreciation of the world that most people see and enjoy. Otherwise any findings of potential irregularities may prove disconnected from the public’s interest.
In this instance, Soetoro-Ng connected effectively with her audience, much like then-Sen. Barack Obama did when I attended his first presidential campaign event in the Washington capital region. That introduction to the future president occurred in March 2007 at the home of my friend Reed Hundt, the first Federal Communications Commission chairman during the Clinton administration. Obama gave remarks well-suited to that occasion. Understandably enough, the candidate was somewhat formal in tone (more so than his sister this week) as he started his long journey to the White House.