Half sister in Hawaii joins Obama campaign
Barack Obama's half sister sent a letter to potential Hawaii supporters last night, debuting as an enthusiastic campaigner for her older brother.
"It's obvious that we like him a lot," wrote Maya Soetoro-Ng, 36, who lives in Honolulu, where Obama was born. "He's sharp, loving, and makes a mean chili."
Soetoro-Ng said in an e-mail letter to nearly 800 people that Obama's decision to run for the Democratic presidential nomination was not easy, but family members and supporters recognized the campaign is about more than winning.
"If, by running, the campaign inspires a diverse group of people across the country to come together and become politically and socially engaged, then the decision to run becomes clear; it's about making a difference, however big or small, in the lives of the people around us," she said in the letter also posted online.
The letter, signed by Soetoro-Ng and her husband, Konrad Ng, kicks off a campaigning effort by Obama's family still living in Hawaii. The couple also has a 2-year-old daughter, and Obama's grandmother lives in Honolulu.
"We as a family have been talking about how to help his campaign," Soetoro-Ng wrote. "We have thought through many options, both big and small, and are working to whip some plans into action."
Obama's roots in the islands have already gained him local support. The Democratic senator from Illinois was born in Honolulu 45 years ago and lived in one of the country's most diverse metropolitan areas for the better part of 18 years. He spent four childhood years in Indonesia.
After Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, divorced Barack Obama Sr., she married Lolo Soetoro and had Maya in Indonesia. They moved to Honolulu, where Obama was being looked after by his grandparents. His half sister attended Punahou School, where Obama graduated in 1979.
Soetoro-Ng now teaches world civilization at La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls and instructs night classes at the University of Hawaii.
She plans to speak at a Hawaii for Obama rally on May 12 at Kawananakoa Middle School, a statewide fundraising kickoff event.
Former state Rep. Brian Schatz, Hawaii coordinator for the Obama campaign, said she is a "tremendous asset" for the campaign because she is a "great family person, articulate, an educator and has a similar charm."
"Barack will do much to improve international relations as well as domestic rights and realities," she wrote to supporters. "And overall, in spite of the coarseness of today's public culture, he is determined to run a smart and dignified campaign."
Obama still visits Hawaii in the winter to relax, play basketball and golf with old friends and to spend time with his family.