Against all odds…

When names don’t matter

The name Stanley Dunham will not be familiar to many. But she was American President-Elect, Barack Obama’s mother. Stanley is normally a male name, but her father, Stanley Dunham snr, so wanted a son, he named his daughter, Stanley.

Predictably, she copped a lot of teasing for it. ‘Stan the Man’ and ‘Stanley Steamer’ were the most common. She learned to live with it. In adulthood and marriage, Stanley came to be known as S. Ann Obama, and subsequently as S. Ann Dunham Soetoro. Soetoro was the name of her Indonesian husband, Lolo. Like Barack Obama snr, Stanley met Lolo who became Barack’s stepfather while at the University of Hawaii. In Hawaiian, Lolo means ‘crazy’. Many white Americans thought that crazy applied to Stanley Ann Dunham, the white Kansan-Hawaiian with a funny first name who married a Luo Kenyan and then a Javan, Lolo Soetoro.

But Stanley, who went on in life to earn a doctorate in anthropology, and who died of cancer in 1995, must have be having the last laugh: her only son – born to an African (Barack Obama snr), step-fathered by an Indonesian (Lolo Soetoro), and subsequently raised by herself and her parents (Madelyn and Stanley Dunham snr) – is about to become one of the most powerful men on the planet. Quite an achievement for an odd-named single mother.  It tells us something too about the values that have become instilled in her son Barack.

In sum, it doesn’t matter where and how we start out in life, or with whatever perceived handicaps. What matters is what we become – how we overcome our circumstances, how we use our opportunities to transcend them.

What matters is whether we can ride above the obvious and see beyond the immediate. Whether we can absorb the taunts, the criticisms, the hard-to-take belittling, and the unfair knocks and turn them into steps on our own ladder to success.

There is much that is heroic in Obama’s life too. His biological father, Barack Obama snr, died tragically in a car accident in 1982; his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, died prematurely of liver disease in 1987; his grandfather, Stanley snr, died in 1992; (his mother died in 1995) and his beloved grandmother, Madelyn, died just ten days ago.

Through all of this, Barack has triumphed. It is testament to his own character undoubtedly, but equally, it speaks volumes to the qualities of character in those closest to him from Africa, from America and from Indonesia. (Daily Post Editorial, 13-Nov-2008)

A great story. A wonderful depiction of endurance and triumph of the human spirit!

You’ve come a long way, skinny boy. Once again, WELL DONE Mr. President-Elect.


7 Responses to “Against all odds…”

  1. freedomfighter Says:

    Talking of mother and son, here is one about son and father:
    NZ Immigration kicks Fiji student out
    A New Zealand university has allowed the son of the Fiji President’s private secretary to sit his exams in Suva after he was sent home last month.

    George Nacewa, the son of Rupeni Nacewa, was into his third year at Massey University when the New Zealand Immigration Department denied renewal of his student visa, forcing him to return home.

    Fairfax Media reports the reason given was that his father was on the “Fiji Banned List”.

    The “Banned List’, part of New Zealand’s sanctions on Fiji, bars all current members of the Fijian interim Government, military and police service and their immediate families from travelling to or getting visas to New Zealand.

    “The list is wrong. It’s supposed to only include permanent secretaries and my dad isn’t one; he’s just a normal secretary, he’s a civil servant,” Nacewa said.

    Massey University has allowed him to sit his exams with extramural students at the University of the South Pacific this week.

    Nacewa Junior says unless his father presents his case before the Fiji High Court and applies to have his name removed from the list he can’t return to complete his final semester of study.

    “It makes me really sad that my dad either has to quit his job so I can have a better education in New Zealand, or we wait for an election here,” he said.

    “It’s my home but there’s no future for me in Fiji the way it is.”

    Sitting his final exam this week, Nacewa says he is going to try his best even though he missed three weeks of lectures because he had to leave so suddenly.

  2. ex Fiji Tourist Says:


    me thinks that this wee lad might have just cottoned onto something; his dad is part of an illegal jaundiced junta which is destroying Fiji.

    This boy hit the nail on the head when he said, “It’s my home but there’s no future for me in Fiji the way it is.”

    Let’s hope that he can talk some sense into his foolish father.

  3. freedomfighter Says:

    Yes, e-Fiji Tourist

    Maumau – feel sorry for the poor lad but that is the only way to make the likes of Nacewa realize that he cant ruin the lives of others and hope that his and tha of his family will carry on, undisturbed.

  4. loma Says:

    the larf has to be how the Fiji High Court will compel the NZ govt in Wellington to remove Nacewa’s name from the list.

    boo hoo.

    Questionable though how come jnr flew under the radar and was able to study in NZ the last 22 months since the December 2006 coup.

  5. IslandBoy Says:

    Sorry SV, I cut and paste from fijilive on another thread because I did not read this first – lights switched ON now.

  6. Mark Manning Says:

    here here !

  7. Budhau Says:

    When names don’t matter – well, in Fiji, it does.
    You think a Chaudary, Prasad, Singh or the like could be the name of a Prime Minister or President in Fiji.

    and imagine how far can one go with a name like Ratu.

    ..and look at Duana…. with a lowlifer name like that, the dude ain’t never gonna get anywhere

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