She would never know. But she was proud. She had not taken the easy path, and her life journey took her to several far away places. She wasn’t always there physically, but spiritually she was. She had always been his Champion — his Advocate. She rarely spoke about her son, Barry, to her colleagues, but when she did, she remarked, “He is brilliant.”
As a young girl herself, she had not been able to feel comfortable at school or any one place, for they had moved many times: Kansas, California, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington state, including the end of her junior year, to Hawaii. She had no choice in the matter, her father had decided when and where they moved. She felt like an outsider; she had to find her calling and her voice for herself. That she found much later, as an expat, in Indonesia, but she still was always an outsider: a white woman born in Kansas. She knew more about Indonesian culture, and Championed their causes, way more that most Indonesian natives could ever imagine or care. She got a PhD eventually by studying the culture meticulously, but she could not be fully Indonesian, she was always viewed as an American white woman.
Moreover, her first born child would declare her as a “white woman from Kansas” – in a nationally televised speech. Heard by millions of Americans, glossing over a singular life – a woman who had not seen much of Kansas, and had two children from two different husbands, neither being American or white, and had studied Indonesian culture so intensely and traveled much of Southeast Asia. A “white woman” – indeed?
Unconventional, a stranger in a strange land, and the mother of a future President of the United States: Dr. Stanley (Ann Dunham) Sutoro, anthropologist, community organizer, secular humanist – “one of the most spiritual souls I ever knew” according to Barack Obama, was always his Champion — Idealist. He said of her, “… she was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism.” She died of ovarian cancer in 1995, and didn’t see her son rise to the Presidency.
Janny Scott noted in her book: “People wonder about his calm and even-keeled manner, Obama observed. He credited the temperament he was born with and the fact that ‘from a very early age, I always felt I was loved and that my mother thought I was special.’”
Is Barack Obama like his father or his mother, Ann Dunham? Well, he has his own Temperament — that is inborn — according to Temperament Theory and Barack Obama: calm, cool, and collected, a Rational, not an Idealist, like his mother.
But she was “the dominant figure in my formative years… The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics”
So which is it: Nature or Nurture? Of course – that’s a false dichotomy. It’s both.
What creates your personality? Both nature and nurture – and circumstance. Ann Dunham was a Champion Idealist and she had made her living in Indonesia much of her lifetime, very far from that Kansas plain. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, a child in Indonesia, a lad of Hawaii, a lawyer educated at Columbia and Harvard, who married and settled in Chicago, and consciously not choosing the peripatetic lifestyle of his mother, is a complex personality which is mix of Temperament and Character.
What, we might ask, is this thing called “temperament,” and what relation does it have to character and personality? There are two sides to personality, one of which is temperament and the other character. Temperament is a configuration of inclinations, while character is a configuration of habits…
Put another way, our brain is a sort of computer which has temperament for its hardware and character for its software. The hardware is the physical base from which character emerges, placing an identifiable fingerprint on each individual’s attitudes and actions. This underlying consistency can be observed from a very early age — some features earlier than others — long before individual experience or social context (one’s particular software) has had time or occasion to imprint the person. Thus temperament is the inborn form of human nature; character, the emergent form, which develops through the interaction of temperament and environment.
– Please Understand Me II, page 20
“I think sometimes that had I known she would not survive her illness, I might have written a different book – less a mediation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life.”
– Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father, preface to the 2004 edition.
“It was a sense that beneath our surface differences, we’re all the same, and there’s more good than bad in each of us. And that you know, we reach across the void and touch each other and believe in each other and work together.”
“That’s precisely the naiveté and idealism that was part of her, and that’s, I suppose, the naïve idealism in me.”