In a recent episode of Barack Obama’s joint Renegades: Born in the USA podcast with Bruce Springsteen, the former U.S. president opened up about his on-and-off relationship with his deceased Kenyan father.
Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., met his mother in 1960 while he was studying at the University of Hawaii on a scholarship. They gave birth to the younger Obama the following year. Touching on the podcast discussion in an Instagram post, the 59-year-old revealed his father left him and his mother when he just two years old and only got to meet him once when he came to visit them from Kenya.
“I didn’t really know my father,” Obama wrote. “He left my mother and me when I was two years old and only traveled from Kenya to visit us once when I was ten. That trip was the first and the last I saw of him; after that, I heard from him only through the occasional letter, written on thin blue airmail paper that was preprinted to fold and address without an envelope.”
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Though Obama never got to meet him again, he said the visit left a lasting impact on his life as his dad introduced him to some of his favorite pastimes. Nevertheless, he said he was also left in a state of uncertainty.
“His short visit had a profound impact on my life. My father gave me my first basketball and introduced me to jazz,” he recalled. “But for the most part, the visit left me with more questions than it answered, and I knew I would have to figure out how to be a man on my own.”
After completing his undergraduate and post-graduate education in the United States, Obama Sr. moved back to his native Kenya where he once served as a senior government economist. Obama said he reconnected with him while he was in college and even arranged to fly to Kenya to visit him. That planned visit, however, never saw the light of day as Obama Sr. passed away in a car accident in 1982.
Despite his father’s death, Obama still made it a point to visit his paternal family. His first visit to Kenya was in 1987, just months before he went on to study at Harvard University. Since then, he has visited his father’s homeland four times, including as a U.S. Senator and as president of the United States.