Skip to content
  • Where the Kenyan heritage of Barack Obama is an asset

    Politico - 07/21/2015

    Who is this American boy we are hearing about whose father is from Siaya?” asked our elderly Kenyan host, Walter Gor in April of 2004, as we sat sipping tea in a small tin-roofed shack near the rocky shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya.

    As American researchers conducting research on Kenyan colonial history, we stared blankly back. Sensing our confusion, Gor elaborated, “Yes, you know the one from Chicago who is contesting a seat in parliament?” Faithful students of Kenyan politics, we were nonetheless stumped by his queries. We thought to ourselves, “An American from Chicago running for the Kenyan parliament? But it is not even an election year in Kenya!”

    A few months later we realized that, drinking tea just 25 miles from Barack Obama’s ancestral Kenyan home, we had missed a prime opportunity to engage with the beginnings of what grew into Kenya’s full-fledged “Obamamania.” Although Obama was merely a candidate for a Senate seat from Illinois in 2004, his political fame rose faster in Kenya than it did in the United States. The president’s paternal ties to the country spawned Obama-inspired beer brands, tee-shirts and kanga wraps. Waves of Kenyan newborns were anointed “Michelle,” “Barack,” “Sasha” and “Malia.”

  • Cookies on Northeastern sites

    This website uses cookies and similar technologies to understand your use of our website and give you a better experience. By continuing to use the site or closing this banner without changing your cookie settings, you agree to our use of cookies and other technologies. To find out more about our use of cookies and how to change your settings, please go to our Privacy Statement.