Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of a young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn't been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory. I had discovered that it didn't make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmate's sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you'd met down at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl ... And if the high didn't solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world's ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bulls*** and cheap moralism.
There wasn't much money. They all lived in a 950-square-foot apartment. His grandfather's effort to sell furniture, and later insurance, failed. Holding the family together was a 5-foot-3 woman they called "Toot." "She never got a college education, but is one of the smartest people I know," Obama said of his grandmother, who in a man's world, worked her way up from secretary to bank vice president.
“I remember my favorite vacation when I was a kid, traveling with my mom and my grandma and my sister, and we traveled the country on Greyhound buses, railroads. And once in a while we’d rent a car, not that often, and stay at Howard Johnsons,” Obama told supporters at Carnegie Mellon University.
“Didn’t matter how big the pool was; if there was a pool, I’d jump in. I was 11 years old, and I was excited just to go to the vending machine and get the ice bucket and get the ice,” he told the crowd.
Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He moved to Jakarta in 1967 where he lived for four years. At the age of 10, he returned to Hawaii and was raised by his maternal grandparents.
Born and raised in Honolulu, Obama honed his ability to appeal to a diverse group of people in the islands, a crossroad of cultures from throughout the Pacific, said his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng.
"Hawaii is the place that gave him the ability to ... understand people from a wide array of backgrounds," she said in a recent phone interview. "People see themselves in him ... because he himself contains multitudes."
The family's own diversity played no small part in developing that skill, she said.
[A] 6-year-old Obama left Hawaii to spend four years in Indonesia with his mother and Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. In 1971, Obama's mother sent him back to Honolulu to stay with his maternal grandparents.