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Summer 2008 online edition

The Myth of Barack Obama's Early Life

by Michael Patrick Leahy

page 7 of 9
Blake never saw her high school friend again. When she herself married in 1964, she sent Dunham a wedding invitation to her last known address in Hawaii, but it was returned with no known forwarding address.

Blake's recollections of Stanley Ann's ultimate destination on this trip seem to be inconsistent with the evidence. In late August 1961, Barack Obama Senior still had a year left of undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii, though he clearly had aspirations to do his graduate work in economics at Harvard.

But it does raise an interesting question.

Why would an eighteen year old mother take her three week old baby on a plane trip from Honolulu to Seattle if her parents and husband were still in Honolulu? What would be sufficient motivation for such action?

Perhaps her husband had taken an advance trip to Harvard to personally apply for acceptance into the graduate economics program the following year, and had asked his wife to join him there to scout the area out before they had to return to the University of Hawaii to finish up his senior year.

On that same trip, probably a week or two later, in early September, another high school classmate, Maxine Box, recalls visiting with Stanley Ann Dunham and her new born baby.

I remember it was a sunny day, and I visited Stanley at the house of the friend she was staying with on Mercer Island. We talked for about an hour, mostly about her new baby, Barack Obama Junior. I recall that she said she was on her way to join her husband, but I donít recall where that was. We didnít talk much about her husband or her plans, we talked mostly about the baby. Like most of my friends, I was shocked at the turn of events. Stanley Ann was only a year out of high school and was already married with a child. I never thought that she was someone who wanted to get married. She was always someone who seemed focus on getting an education. (39)


As with Blake, this visit would be the last time that Box ever saw her high school friend.

The real purpose of this trip, however, may have been different than Stanley Ann Dunham described to her friends. In August, 1961, she enrolled in a University of Washington extension course. Between August, 1961 and March 1962, she enrolled in a total of four extension courses at the University of Washington, earning a total of 20 credits for her work in those courses, no small feat, considering that graduation required 180 credits, and the typical full time student earned 45 credits a year. Neither Box nor Blake has any recollection of Stanley Ann telling them she was enrolling on that same trip in extension courses at the University of Washington. (40)

It was a curious visit, and a curious academic choice. Why would she enroll in extension courses at the University of Washington when she had found herself intellectually stimulated during her previous year of studies at the University of Hawaii?

Despite these questions, the recollections of her friend Susan Blake suggest that in late August, 1961 she was wildly enthusiastic about her future life with her Kenyan husband and she was very much in love with him.

By March, 1962, a mere seven months later, her feelings for her new husband were apparently quite different. Something transpired during this interim period that permanently changed their relationship. Future Congressman Neil Abercrombie had a feeling that the relationship wouldn't last.

Although he didn't say it at the time, Abercrombie privately feared that the relationship would be short-lived. Obama was one of the most ambitious, self-focused men he had ever met. After Obama was accepted to study at Harvard, Stanley Ann disappeared from the University of Hawaii student gatherings, but she did not accompany her husband to Harvard. (41)

Some time between August 1961 and March 1962, Barack Obama Senior was accepted into Harvard's Phd. program in economics. Perhaps this acceptance forced him to discuss their future together. Perhaps they concocted a plan that would keep them together as a family, with her move to Seattle and enrollment at the University of Washington in the spring of 1962 was one part of that plan.

While it is purely speculation to ponder what that might have been, looking back more than four decades later, some theories come to mind.

Given Barack Obama Senior's subsequent history of womanizing, one possibility is that he treated his second wife in much the same way he treated both his first and third wives. In other words, he saw other women while he was with them. Another possibility is that Stanley Ann discovered the existence of his wife and two children in Kenya. Barack Obama himself recalls the bitter letter his white grandparents received from Barack Obama Seniorís father in Kenya after he learned of the marriage. (42) Perhaps in another letter he revealed his sonís first wife and two other children.

Or perhaps after he was accepted at Harvard he told his young wife that her presence with him at Harvard would be far too much trouble for him, that he needed all his energies to focus on his studies. Given his arrogance and oversized ego, it is easy to accept this theory.


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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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