U.S. President Barack Obama proudly reveled in his father’s roots on Sunday in a speech he delivered to nearly 5,000 cheering Kenyans at a Nairobi gymnasium.
“I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States. That goes without saying,” Obama declared.
The president was Introduced to the crowd by half-sister Auma Obama, who said he “continues to be very attached to us.” The Kenyan sister told her fellow Africans she could still remember picking up her young brother at Nairobi airport in a Volkswagon Beetle during his first trip to Kenya years ago. Now he returns in a presidential limo, she noted, which is known as “The Beast.”
But, she said, “He gets us. He’s one of us.” Obama’s half-brother Malik Obama, also in the audience, said simply that he was grateful that his brother “finally came to Kenya” as the powerful U.S. president.
“This is an important step in uniting everybody and showing the whole world a true sense of brotherhood,” said Malik Obama.
The president, meanwhile, stayed focused on inspiring young Kenyans to push forward – as he did – and up towards a better future.
“No country can achieve its full potential unless it draws on the talents of all its people,” Obama said.
‘When it comes to the people of Kenya, especially the youth, I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve. You can build your future right here, right now,” he said.
Obama then brought out his laundry list of what the African nation still needs to change. He began with the issue of discrimination against women, using as an example the recent debate in the United States over whether or not the Confederate flag should still be allowed to fly in the American southern states.
“Just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right,” Obama said. “The Confederate flag … was a symbol for “those states who fought to preserve slavery and racial superiority… More and more Americans of all races are realizing now that that flag should come down.
“Just because something’s a tradition doesn’t make it right. is part of your past doesn’t make it right,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that it defines your future…. Treating women as a second-class citizen is a bad tradition. It’s holding you back,” he warned, in an oblique reference to the high incidence of domestic violence, sexual assault and female mutilation.
He then aimed at government corruption, calling it “an anchor that weighs you down.”
Obama told the story of his grandfather, who worked as a cook for the British military. “He was referred to as a “boy” even though he was a grown man,” he said, but added, “What these stories also tell us is about the arc of progress. We have to know our history so that we learn from it.”
The American president urged Kenya to continue its ongoing fight against the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab terror organization based in Somalia.
“We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight against terrorism – for as long as it takes,” Obama said.
Ultimately, however, he reminded those gathered, “In the end, we are all a part of one tribe, the human tribe.”
Hana Levi Julian