— President Obama’s half sister is weighing in on the continuing controversy over the president’s birthplace, insisting the president “was born in Hawaii and that’s a fact.”
“I think the facts are absolutely clear,” Maya Soetoro-Ng told TODAY’s Al Roker during a wide-ranging interview to promote her new children’s book, “Ladder to the Moon” — which she wrote, she said, to introduce her two young daughters to Stanley Ann Dunham, her late mother, the woman who raised her and the president of the United States.
The controversy over the president’s birthplace heated up anew last week when billionaire developer, television personality and presumed Republican candidate for president Donald Trump told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira that he continues to have doubts that Obama was born in the United States. Trump also questioned the president’s birth certificate.
Officials in Hawaii have insisted that the president was born there, and several journalists, including some critical of the Obama administration, have dismissed allegations that his birth certificate was somehow faked. But that has done little to quell the continuing questions raised by some conservatives.None of which raises any doubts with Soetoro-Ng, who lives in Hawaii with her husband and their two daughters, Suhaila and Savita. “I think that not only do we have newspaper releases showing his birth; the birth certificate has been authenticated by a number of sources, including our former Republican governor,” she told Roker. “So I really think there’s no more to it than that.”
A mother’s legacy
Though best-known as the half sister of the president, Soetoro-Ng is an accomplished woman in her own right, with a doctorate in international comparative education and years of experience as an educator, from the middle school to the university level. And now, with “Ladder to the Moon,” she has also become an author.
The book, she says, is an homage to the woman who reared both the president and her, penned in repsonse to a question from 6-year-old Suhaila (born years after Dunham’s 1995 death from cancer) to give the child a sense of how strong and inspiring a woman Dunham was.
“She was formidable, and when it came to work, she fought rather fearlessly for those about whom she cared. But she was also very tender, and very sweet, and there was a softness about her. I think she made everyone feel that it was OK to be complex,” Soetoro-Ng said.
“She was a teacher at all times, even though she may have been employed in other ways — she spent a lot of time in microfinance — but she was a teacher, as am I,” Soetoro-Ng told Roker. “And she emphasized the themes that are present in the book, namely that we are interconnected, that we therefore need to take care of one another, empathize with one another, find ways to serve and help one another.”
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Soetoro-Ng said that she can see the influence of her mother — who, she says, remained committed to her ideals even as she struggled to raise her children, often as a single parent — in the Obama presidency.
“I think those themes are very much evidenced in this presidency and in all of my brother’s efforts,” Soetoro-Ng said. “I think there’s a balance between negotiation and action … in everything that he does to reach out, in spite of enormous challenges, to keep working with people across the aisle.
“I think I see her every day.”
But Soetoro-Ng too feels her mother’s inspiration every day, she said. “Certainly my work as an educator continues to remind me that we are able to shape our own stories and impact our own communities,” she said. “And the thing that is remarkable about our mother is that … she wasn’t content to work with just what she was given, or handed. She really built her own story and her own life and used imagination. And I love that idea of using imagination in as many ways as possible.”