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Wrestling Ghosts: Obama’s Latest Interview Reveals Struggle With Kenyan Father

  • Former US President Barack Obama has revealed how his complicated relationship with his father Barack Obama Senior impacted his life and in extension changed the course of US history.

    In a recent podcast which he runs alongside Bruce Springsteen, a US musician, Obama said that his father’s absence in his life had a significant impact on learning how to be a man.

    “One of the things (about) of not having a father in the house was also not seeing someone who had a craft or a trade or a profession that looked like something that I should emulate or do,” he explained. 

    The late Barack Obama Senior holds his son former US President Barack Obama

    The late Barack Obama Senior holds his son former US President Barack Obama

    File

    Obama’s father left the US when he was two years old and came back after eight years, only staying for a month before returning to Kenya.

    For that one month, the former president did not connect with his father and saw him much like a stranger in their home.

    “I think he was probably trying to court my mother to come back and have her grab me and all of us move back to Kenya, and my mother, who still loved him, was wise enough to realize that’s probably a bad idea. But I did see him then for a month and I didn’t know what to make of him,” the former president intimated, adding that he was eager for his father to leave.

    When Obama went to college, he realised that he needed to spend time with his father to better understand himself.

    However, months before he could travel to Kenya, Obama Senior died in a car crash.

    His father’s absence in his life made the former president feel as though he had to prove that he was worth the love and attention he missed out on.

    “Michelle always wonders sometimes, ‘Why is it that you just feel so compelled to just do all this hard stuff? I mean, why don’t you… what’s this hole in you that just makes you just feel so driven?” Obama recalled conversations with his wife.

    “I think part of it was kind of early on feeling as if, ‘Man, I’ve got to live up to this. I’ve got to prove this’. Maybe the reason he left is because he didn’t think it was worth staying for me and no– I will show him that you know, he made a mistake not hanging around because I was worth investing in,” he added. 

    The former president expressed that the struggle to prove his value to his father who had already died felt like he was wrestling with ghosts.

    In hindsight, however, the distance also spared him the agony of watching his father struggle with various things in life. 

    “The second thing that I learned was in watching his (Obama Senior) other male children who I got to know later when I travelled to Kenya and met some of them. I realized that, in some ways, it was probably good that I had not lived in his home because much in the same way that your dad was struggling with a bunch of stuff, he was struggling with a bunch of stuff and it created chaos and destruction and anger and hurt and longstanding wounds in them that I just did not have to deal with,” Obama told his co-host.

    Ultimately he noted that society’s definition of a man emphasises physical toughness over sensitivity; the need to dominate over the ability to love and care for others.

    Former US President Barrack Obama (second left) his grandmother Sarah Obama and sister Auma Obama in Kenya in July 2018

    Former US President Barrack Obama (second left) his grandmother Sarah Obama and sister Auma Obama in Kenya in July 2018

    File

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