Meeting Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng

The Seattle Foundation hosts a series of what it calls “community conversations”, and the latest guest was Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng. Maya has a famous half-brother, former President Obama. They are both the children of Stanley Ann Dunham, who actually graduated from Mercer High School here in Seattle. The Seattle Foundation hosts the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund, and it was in conjunction with scholarship awards from that Fund that Maya was here in Seattle.

Barack Obama’s father is African; Maya’s father is Indonesian. Ann Dunham, an anthropologist, certainly didn’t stay close to home after her high school years in the Seattle area.

Maya now lives in Hawaii, where she and Barack Obama both went to high school and where their grandparents lived, and she is on the faculty of the University of Hawaii. She’s also written a children’s book, which she autographed as a gift for all attendees. I had mine signed for Archie and Else.

She’s a lovely, gracious person and a moving speaker: she talked mostly about her mother. The room was filled with highly accomplished, interesting people — including one of the scholarship recipients. I was reminded yet again of our dueling American reality. All of these people, by race, ethnicity, religion, or progressive politics, are anathema to Trump’s Make America White Again agenda. All of the conversation was about hope for the future, our ability to solve the deep problems that perplex global humanity, and the need to support young hard working talent.

Farthest thing in the world from Trump’s smarmy entitled brood, and his American carnage message.

My houseguest, Jane, has also led a global life, spending many years with Doctors Without Borders — mostly in Paris and Africa — and doing U.N. sponsored work combatting the spread of tuberculosis. TB kills more people worldwide than malaria and HIV combined, which most of us don’t realize.

Jane asked me what I thought might bring the country back together, as polarized and angry as we now are. That’s the topic of conversation with one of my email correspondents, as well. How do we get out of this fearful, white nationalist, bitter and destructive place?

I think about it a lot, and I really don’t know.

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