Obama's sister still calls Hawaii home


POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2009

Maya Soetoro-Ng returned home to Hawaii last night from the inauguration of her half brother, President Barack Obama, to a reception that honored her and other civil rights leaders in Honolulu.

Soetoro-Ng said it is “;premature”; to say whether she will join her brother and move with her family to Washington, D.C.

“;We have not made any plans to move,”; she said. “;Hawaii is home, and we would like to raise our children here.”;

But Soetoro-Ng added that she would “;love to experience geographical closeness to my brother at some point during the next eight years.”;

During a short news conference, Soetoro-Ng said she was “;moved to tears on more than one occasion”; during the inaugural celebrations last week and cried the entire last half of her brother's inauguration speech.

She said she was struck by the magnitude of history of her brother's inauguration as the nation's first black president coming after Martin Luther King Day and being at the Lincoln Memorial last Monday to honor King.

Soetoro-Ng attended a reception last night at the Pacific Club, a private club that did not accept nonwhite members when it was founded, but is now integrated.

Last night's reception was sponsored by the Hawaii Friends of Civil Rights and also honored UH basketball coach Bob Nash, women and prisoner's rights advocate Kat Brady, and the African American Lawyers Association with the second annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Friends Award.

“;I feel warm,”; Soetoro-Ng said after rushing to the event just an hour and a half after her flight arrived from chilly Washington, D.C. “;I feel like there could be no better homecoming than this.”;

Soetoro-Ng, a teacher at La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls, and her husband, Konrad Ng, a University of Hawaii professor, have one child, Suhaila Ng, born in 2005.

Because there was a chance Soetoro-Ng would not make the event, she dictated a speech to emcee Emme Tomimbang in a phone call from the White House at 1 a.m. Washington time.

In the speech, read by Tomimbang, Soetoro-Ng accepted the award on behalf of her brother and what he has done to

advance the cause of civil rights.

She credited “;the very big role Hawaii has played in this, how hard Hawaii fought to change the climate and tenor for politics in this country.”;

During the news conference, Soetoro-Ng added that Hawaii is a factor “;in my brother's ability to so effectively reconcile seemingly different ideas, thoughts and people.”;

“;I feel that Hawaii does teach us an important reminder of the fact that we can harness all of the beauty of difference,”; Soetoro-Ng said.