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Summer 2008 online edition

The Myth of Barack Obama's Early Life

by Michael Patrick Leahy

page 6 of 9

Despite these assertions by friends and family, the lack of any documentary evidence, when such evidence for legal marriages that took place in Hawaii during 1961 is readily available today to any inquiring family member, strongly suggests that Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Senior were not ever legally married.

The State of Hawaii maintains all marriage records in its Department of Vital Records, a part of the Department of Health. Its website states that any family member can request copies of valid marriage certificates by simply paying a small fee. If Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Obama were legally married on February 2, 1961, the marriage certificate is maintained by the Hawaii Department of Vital Records, and a copy of it can be made available to any blood relative easily. (33)

Since the publication of Barack Obama's memoir in 1995, he has not produced such evidence, nor has he apparently made an inquiry of the Department of Vital Records to secure such a record.

There is no possible explanation for the failure to secure such a record other than a certain knowledge that the document does not exist, or a fear that such an inquiry will reveal that the document does not exist.

If Obama had been borne out of wedlock, it would not disqualify him in any way from seeking the Presidency, though it does suggest that his legal name at birth should have been Barack Hussein Dunham rather than Barack Hussein Obama II. Certainly the names "Barack Dunham" or "Barry Dunham" lack the mystery and exotic attractiveness of the name "Barack Obama", and it's the exotic name that succinctly captures the unusual life narrative Obama has been publicly promoting for over thirteen years.

It's not known exactly when the new couple revealed the double dose of news to her parents that they were married and that she was expecting. Their initial reaction was one of anger. Madelyn in particular, foresaw quickly the chasm the different cultures would present to the success of the marriage. She didn't like her new African son-in-law in particular, considered him "strange", though reluctantly described him as "brilliant." (34)

Perhaps she had the clarity to see that the financial burden of supporting the child would quickly fall to her and her husband. That this turned out to be the case was not something that caused joy for them, but it was something they handled.

Despite the secretiveness of the marriage, the age difference between their daughter and his new husband, as well as the racial and cultural differences, Annís parents soon rose to the occasion as the supporting parents of the new couple. By now, Stanley Dunham and Madelyne Payne Dunham lived in an apartment building in a Honolulu high rise, and there they provided a stable fall back for their pregnant young daughter and her ambitious Kenyan husband. The living arrangements between the announcement of the wedding and the birth of the child were uncertain. Most likely, Obama Senior remained in his dorm room while Ann lived with her parents.

Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961 at 7:52 PM in Honolulu, Hawaii. Stanley Ann Dunham was listed as the maiden name of the mother and Barack Obama was listed as the name of the father in the document put forward that appears to be a State of Hawaii Certificate of Live Birth. The document was filed on August 8, 1961.

There is no indication that Barack Obama Senior was present at the birth of his third child. Stanley Ann's high school classmate Susan Blake had the impression that he was not there, and may not even have been on the island of Hawaii at the time, but no other contemporary has any recollections on this issue one way or the other. (35)

In August or September of 1961, Barack Obama Senior enrolled and attended classes in his final undergraduate year from the University of Hawaii, from which he would graduate with a Bachelors Degree in economics and mathematics in June, 1962.

Obama biographer David Mendell reports that Barack Obama Senior rented a small one floor house near the campus of the University of Hawaii around this time, ostensibly as a home for his young wife and their new son. It's not clear how much time the Barack Obama Senior family spent there together living under the same roof. (36)

On at least one occasion, very shortly after the birth of Barack Obama Junior, friends of Stanley Ann Dunham recall her visiting them in Seattle with her new born baby, Barack Obama Junior.

Susan Blake, another high school classmate, said that during a brief visit in 1961, Dunham was excited about her husband's plans to return to Kenya "We all had June Cleaver as our role models, and she was blazing new trails for herself," said Blake, a former Mercer Island city councilwoman. (37)

Blake recalls that Dunham, who was calling herself Ann Obama at the time, visited her at her house in Mercer Island during the last week of August, 1961.

She left Honolulu just as soon she had clearance from her doctor to travel with her new baby. He was just 3 weeks old. She had sent a postcard that she would be in town, and was staying with a friend of her mother's. She drove out to my house in her motherís friend's car, and we spent the entire day together. She was very excited about her new life, and her husband. She was nuts about him, crazy in love. I was under the impression that he had left Honolulu before Barack's birth, that he had gone to Harvard already for his studies, and that Ann was on her way to join him there. She planned on raising her son, getting a job, and attending school, she told me. Her husband would head back to Kenya after graduating from Harvard to join the newly formed government, and she would take her place beside him. It was all very exciting, a dramatic change in her life in the one year since she had graduated from high school. (38)

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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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