PRESIDENT OBAMA: Habari Zenu! Wakenya mpo? It is great to be back in Kenya. Thank you so much for this extraordinary welcome. I know it took a few years, but as President I try to keep my promises, and I said I was going to come, and I’m here. Everybody, go ahead and have a seat. I’m going to be talking for a while. Relax.
I want to thank my sister, Auma, for a wonderful introduction. I’m so glad that she could be with us here today. And it was – as she said, it was Auma who first guided me through Kenya almost 30 years ago.
To President Kenyatta, I want to thank you once again for the hospitality that you’ve shown to me and for our work together on this visit, and for being here today. It’s a great honor.
I am proud to be the first American President to come to Kenya and, of course, I’m the first Kenyan-American to be President of the United States. That goes without saying.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Obama! PRESIDENT OBAMA: I love you back. I do.
But, as Auma was saying, the first time I came to Kenya, things were a little different. When I arrived at Kenyatta Airport, the airline lost my bags. That doesn’t happen on Air Force One. They always have my luggage on Air Force One. As she said, Auma picked me up in an old Volkswagen Beetle, and think the entire stay I was here it broke down four or five times. We’d be on the highway, we’d have to call the juakali – he’d bring us tools. We’d be sitting there, waiting. And I slept on a cot in her apartment. Instead of eating at fancy banquets with the President, we were drinking tea and eating ugali and sukumawiki.
So there wasn’t a lot of luxury. Sometimes the lights would go out. They still do – is that what someone said? But there was something more important than luxury on that first trip, and that was a sense of being recognized, being seen. I was a young man and I was just a few years out of University. I had worked as a community organizer in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago. I was about to go to law school. And when I came here, in many ways I was a Westerner, I was an American, unfamiliar with my father and his birthplace, really disconnected from half of my heritage.
And at that airport, as I was trying to find my luggage, there was a woman there who worked for the airlines, and she was helping fill out the forms, and she saw my name and she looked up and she asked if I was related to my father, who she had known. And that was the first time that my name meant something. And that was recognised.