Leading the greatest country in the world is a demanding job for any one man or woman, and the responsibilities of a U.S. president, day in and day out, are at times profoundly stressful, as the past four years have taught me well. But I take great solace in the support of my family, my trusted advisors, and the fact that whenever the pressure seems unbearable, I can go be alone somewhere and just visualize myself back on the savannahs of western Kenya that I remember so well from my boyhood.
I often feel overburdened by the strains of the Oval Office, but I draw great strength, confidence, and relief from my memories of that simpler time. Waking up with the sunrise, I’d help the village women forage or make clothing, and do my part to kindle the campfire. When I got older, I’d join the hunt with the men of the tribe—the day I speared my first eland and was proclaimed a man was the proudest achievement of my life prior to November of 2008.
After a contentious showdown with Republican lawmakers, or amidst a looming controversy surrounding NSA surveillance, or following the release of a dismal round of approval ratings, I like nothing more than to shut it all out and think back to those long summer evenings that ended with freshly roasted meat, a few folktales from an elder, and then drifting lazily off to sleep right on the ground. Oh, how liberating it would be to go back to those times—the roughest part of my day might be a heavy rainfall or a mischievous patas monkey determined to steal a sweet potato.
The ominous specter of North Korea’s nuclear program seems manageable while remembering those perfectly serene days when the work was finished early and my eight brothers and I would walk many miles west to swim and catch tilapia with our bare hands in the Great Water. Those were such innocent times, before I had any notion that my true calling was statesmanship on another continent, and before my decisions affected billions of lives and world history itself.
Today, my job is fraught with treaties and wars, and the fates of countless people are at stake every day. I’d love to just decompress with a weekend back at the old grass hut. Camp David is nice and all, but it’ll never replace Luoland.
You can take the kid out of Kenya, but you can’t take Kenya out of the kid, I suppose.
Looking back, it’s kind of ironic, because being chief of the Luo tribe was not something that I ever dreamed about or even wanted to do. I liked hunting and skinning the beasts of prey, and I thought I’d get a healthy wife and a beautiful family that way, but I always believed that Wanyanga would be responsible for making all the important decisions in my life. Can you believe it—I mean in retrospect? That’s what makes me laugh most of the time: 30 people, no. But 315 million? Sure, what the hey!
And oh, the festival days! We Obamas would spend hours making feathered headdresses, then prance and chant with blind abandon. I still remember the dance I used to perform to thank Nyasaye for the splendor of nature, back before Christian missionaries taught me the ways of the White Man. I cherish those memories and seek comfort in them whenever I’m beset with questions over the IRS targeting of conservative groups, or actions surrounding the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi.
Many have asked me, how did your life change so dramatically? Well, I was kind of rootless after Dad died, so I asked the village ajuoga what to do. He cast pebbles and, rather improbably, they came up saying I was destined to be president of the Harvard Law Review and then teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago. This was a lot for a young man to process, let alone live up to. But the pebbles don’t lie, so I wrapped some meager possessions in a wildebeest skin and set out for Nairobi.
Almost a year later, I arrived in Boston, shoeless and speaking only a few crude English phrases. But the faculty of Harvard took pity on me, and soon no one was more surprised than I when I graduated with a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude. I believe old Onyango’s tales of Anansi the trickster god helped me to grasp the cunning subtleties of the U.S. legal system.
I’ll be honest, though: When a professor was being unfair with me, a couple of Grandma’s voudon curses didn’t hurt.
So here I stand, helming the greatest nation in the history of the world. True testament to the age-old American ideal that anyone can grow up to be president, no matter what you look like, where you come from, where your true loyalties lie, or what animal the gods of your ancestors resembled.
But although I am a true success story of the fabled American Dream, I owe just as much to my beautiful wife Michelle for teaching me compassion, the English language, patience, and the fact that American women are not purchased from their fathers with gifts of cattle.