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Summer 2008 online edition

The Myth of Barack Obama's Early Life

by Michael Patrick Leahy
page 5 of 9
"I think she was attracted to his powerful personality," Abercrombie said, "and he was attracted to her beauty and her calmness." ... The self-assured and opinionated Obama spoke with a voice so deep that "he made James Earl Jones seem like a tenor," said Neil Abercrombie (24)

Barack Obama Senior apparently did not tell the pretty seventeen year old American girl that he was already married and had a child in Kenya. Itís uncertain if that would made a difference to her, because shortly after they met in class, they began to date. Years later, her son would notice an embarassing element of raw sexual attraction on her part to dark men, one that manifested itself when he, his mother, and half sister took in the art house film Black Orpheus years later when he was a student at Columbia. (25)

Withholding such vital information from a young girl under the age of eighteen was apparently not the only character flaw of Obama Senior. Even his friends found him to be a troublesome personality.

Philip Ochieng, his fellow Tom Mboya scholar, who also spent time with him when they both returned to Kenya said Obama Senior was "extraordinary clever, but also cruel and given to boasting about his brain and wealth." (26)

His third wife, Ruth Nidersand, to whom he was married from 1965 to 1972, later described him as a "very difficult man", who "wasn't an easy person to be around." (27)

Young Ann could foresee none of this at the time, for she was smitten by clever and intelligent Obama. They conceived Barack Junior two months later, during the first week of November. Given his future Presidential aspirations, it was perhaps a harbinger of things to come that the conception could have possibly occurred in celebration John F. Kennedy's election to the Presidency on November 8, 1960.

Obama's sexual relationship with the under age Dunham placed him in no apparent legal jeopardy, because Hawaii, then as now, recognized fourteen years of age as the legal age of consent. Even if her parents had the legal right to pursue charges against him, they were not the kind of people who would have been likely to do so.

Obama Senior might also have run the risk of violating Hawaii's laws against bigamy, though any charges against him would have been difficult to prove. The tribal ceremony in which he wed the eighteen year old Keiza in Kenya in 1957 was not likely to provide the same kind of legal evidence in a Hawaii court as a marriage certificate to another woman in another state of the United States would have.

Susan Blake remembers receiving a postcard from Stanley Ann over Christmas, 1960.

She said that she was dating the African exchange student, and that while her parents weren't happy with it, they were dealing and adjusting. (28)

Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Senior were said to have married before a justice of the peace on the island of Maui on February 2, 1961, by which time the now eighteen year old Ann's pregnancy was known to both of them. The wedding had no witnesses, not even her parents, and no record of the event has yet been found. The only evidence that suggests a February, 1961 date for the wedding was a document included in Ann Dunham's 1964 divorce proceedings against Obama Senior. (29)

Obama himself has been uncertain as to the details of the wedding, assigning 1960 as the year of the event, but having no documentation to support that claim. In his memoirs, he elaborates:

How and when the marriage occurred remains a bit murky, a bill of particulars that I've never quite had the courage to explore. There's no record of a real wedding, a cake, a ring, a giving away of the bride. No families were in attendance; . . . (30)

From a distance of almost fifty years the question of the actual occurrence of a marriage ceremony is largely irrelevant, but the stories that Barack Obama has told about the event are quite relevant, as they give great insight into the process by which he determines what is true and what is not true.

Madelyne Dunham remains absolute in her contention that a marriage did, in fact occur, though perhaps that is exactly the type of response that might be expected from a loving grandmother concerned with the possibility that her grandson might be harmed psychologically if he were considered to be illegitimate. (31)

Stanley Ann's high school classmates Maxine Box, Susan Blake, and Barbara Cannon Rusk were shocked at the turn of events. They are unanimous on two points, however:

Stanley Ann Dunham would have legally married Barack Obama Senior. "Her father would have made sure of it," Maxine Box said years later. (32)

They are also unanimous that Stanley Ann would definitely not have married Barack Obama Senior had she known of his 1957 tribal marriage to Kezia and his two young children from that earlier marriage.

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Michael Patrick Leahy is the author of Letter to an Atheist, and Managing Editor of Christian Faith and Reason Magazine.

Comments are welcome. All comments will be read, not all comments will be posted. We may invite authors of the best comments to respond in full articles, to be published in our November edition.

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