But enough about me. I have been able to piece together a bit more about Barack Obama's parents and the role the East-West Center played in their lives. His mother, Ann Dunham, arrived in Hawaii with her parents from Seattle in 1960 and began to attend the University of Hawaii. She soon married Barack Hussein Obama Sr. and gave birth to Barack Jr. on August 4, 1961. Both parents were sponsored by the East-West Center, which was newly created at the time to help foster better relations between the US and Asia. The EWC requires its grantees to take a foreign language (I took Japanese and Indonesian) and they met in a Russian language class. In 1963, the elder Obama took a scholarship for graduate study at Harvard University and eventually returned to his native Kenya. Ann married another East-West Center grantee, Lolo Soetoro from Indonesia, who was studying for a MA degree in geography.
Obama never studied or spent much time at the East-West Center, but his parents were very much part of the dynamic international East-West Center community. His mother and Kenyan-born father spent considerable time mixing with other international students at the Center’s famous cafeteria that looks out over a beautiful Japanese garden. Moreover his Kansas-born mother and stepfather from Indonesia were each selected to participate in the East-West Center’s highly competitive graduate Scholarship Program." 1
The East-West Center is funded almost entirely by the US Congress and has been run since its beginning by the US Information Agency (USIA) which also ran the Voice of America (VoA). Reports of it being a "left-wing" institution are greatly exaggerated, although like the VoA, it tried to develop good relations with other countries in Asia-Pacific, many of which had been left-of-center or at least partial to "development" thinking where government has a crucial role in a nation's economic, educational, and social growth.
In 1967, the new family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, during the tense years of the early Suharto regime. So intense that his mother who worked for the US Embassy, brought him back to Hawaii in 1971. After several years, she decided to move back to Indonesia. Barack asked to live with his grandparents and stay in Hawaii. His grandfather had been very attentive to the father-less boy and his grandmother was a rising star and eventual Vice-President at the Bank of Hawaii, one of Hawaii's two largest banks. Obama's mother returned to Indonesia where she continued her work in rural development that would take her to many countries in the area: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand.2
For myself, I also met my wife during my days as a EWC grantee and I would be pleased if our daughter continued the tradition and ran for US President one day.