President Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng has been visiting California State University Sacramento this week. Soetoro-Ng is a professor from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and regularly gives speeches to students across the country about building peace through dialogue. She talked with Insight host Beth Ruyak this morning about the message she's hoping to spread, and how that message fits with the legacy of her big brother, the president.
“We share the same mom,” she says. “We were raised by the same woman. His father was our mother's first husband. And my father, who was from Indonesia was our mother's second husband.”
Ruyak: You're on a college campus and this is an age group you're very comfortable with. What concerns do you have for this late teen, early 20-something age group right now?
Soetoro-Ng: I want them to find opportunities to be mindful. There are just so many distractions right now. What I will say is the young people with whom I work both at my campus at the University of Hawaii and elsewhere are much more service-oriented. They believe in participatory leadership. They understand that solutions have to come from everyday leadership and grassroots sources as well as governmental sources. They're not waiting for the government to fix everything. They are more engaged in that way. And that makes me feel tremendously optimistic.
There is, I think, some high levels of acrimony and interpersonal conflict ... dichotomous thinking. And I would love to help young people to begin to sort of come together a little more.
Ruyak: How can it happen for them when that contentiousness starts at the very upper leadership in our country? And certainly your brother has been in the midst of a lot of it. We see it in the campaign. So if they take their cues from the adults and the leaders around us, how do you start to -is it-turn a barge?
Soetoro-Ng: This is a time for more rigorous democracy. If people begin to see civic engagement as more than voting. Voting is important and we don't do enough of that. But I think the idea is to embed our sense of civic responsibility and agency in daily actions and in helping with community resilience. This is solving interpersonal problems and finding ways to rehabilitate and transform conflict and communicate non-violently and listen more effectively. If we do this then I think we're going to be okay.
Ruyak: How concerned are you about how the legacy of your brother, the president, will land in history because of all those dynamics of the time.
Soetoro-Ng: I actually feel really confident that history books and his legacy will be applauded and we'll see down the road just how much progress has been made during this time in terms of equity and inclusion and social justice and expansion of our democratic possibilities. I won't go on but I hope and trust that people will understand that this nation has been and fortified and so have the individuals within it.