TIME White House

President Obama Gets an Early Start on Celebrating His Birthday

president barack obama
Aude Guerrucci—picture-alliance/AP United States President Barack Obama makes remarks prior to signing the three month extension of mass transit and highway funding bill in the Oval Office of the White House on July 31, 2015, in Washington, DC.

This is how he's marking his 54th

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama is getting a head start on turning a year older.

Obama turns 54 on Tuesday.

In what has become an annual birthday tradition, the president started celebrating on Saturday by taking a trio of friends from his Hawaii childhood for a golf outing at Andrews Air Force Base.

The group then spends the night at the secluded Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

The White House said the other members of Obama’s foursome are his longtime friends Mike Ramos, Bobby Titcomb and Greg Orme.

Obama planned to return to the White House on Sunday afternoon.

TIME justice

Former Prisoners Applaud Program to Help Inmates Go to College

Alphonso Coates college prison education partnership
Patrick Semansky—AP Inmate Alphonso Coats, a participant in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership, sits in a discussion with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other officials inside the Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup on July 31, 2015, in Jessup, Md.

Glenn Martin knows exactly the kind of difference getting an education can make for a person behind bars. When Martin was 23, he was sentenced to six years in prison for robbery. That time, he told TIME on Friday, was arguably the lowest point in his life.

But a meeting he had with a correction’s officer during his early days behind bars in state prison in New York changed his life. After reviewing his file, the officer suggested that he consider advancing his education and enrolling in college courses.

“That was the first time anyone had ever said to me ‘you should go to college,’” Martin says. “I grew up in [the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn]. I distinctly remember people saying the opposite to me.”

While in prison, Martin was able to earn his associate’s degree through a prison education program called the Consortium of the Niagara Frontier, one of New York’s oldest post-secondary correctional education programs. It was in that program that Martin says he was able to consider all of the possibilities that lie ahead of him in life.

“I started to think of myself differently,” Martin says. “I saw hope beyond being in that prison for six years.”

Now, at 43, Martin serves as the president of Just Leadership USA, an organization aimed at significantly reducing the incarceration rate nationwide by 2030. And it was in that role that Martin was invited to attend an event at a prison in Maryland on Friday, where he participated in a roundtable discussion with the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Education.

As TIME reported earlier this week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan traveled to the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup to announce that the administration would temporarily grant incarcerated individuals access to federal aid that can help them pay for college. The experimental initiative reverses a 1994 law that blocked state and federal prisoners’ access to Pell Grants which critics say hurt their chances to start over.

The research on the topic of institutional education is clear: according to a 2013 study by the RAND Corporation funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, prisoners who took educational courses behind bars were 43% less likely to return to prison in three years than those who did not. With about 1.5 million Americans behind bars, changing the Pell Grant system could have a major effect.

“America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are,” Duncan said in a statement.

Through the pilot program, prisoners who are eligible for release within the next five years and otherwise meet the requirements for federal aid could have access to grants to pay for tuition, fees, books, and supplies. Though the program is limited to Pell Grants and does not apply to any other type of aid, those who work in education are hopeful.

Vivian Nixon, the executive director of the College and Community Fellowship an organization that helps formerly incarcerated women get an education, didn’t have a chance to get an education while she was behind bars. When she was in her mid-thirties, Nixon was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for a series of white-collar crimes.

The possibility of being able to further her education while incarcerated gave Nixon hope, but those dreams were dashed when she was transferred to a prison that didn’t offer any post-secondary education courses. After suffering bouts of hopelessness and depression, Nixon started tutoring other women working toward their GED behind bars. Over the past decade and a half, she’s made it her mission to get the federal government to make it easier for prisoners to get an education.

“Education is transformative,” Nixon says. “When people are educated it opens up a whole set of different choices and without the kind of knowledge or confidence that education brings you can easily slip back into the old habits that landed you in prison.”

For Nixon and Martin, who collaborated to form the Education from the Inside Out Coaltion, an organization that aims to increase educational opportunities for prisoners, Friday was a special day. Both of them saw their handwork come to fruition firsthand.

“For [decades] we’ve dealt with this issue in ways that make for good politics, but bad policy,” Martin said. “This is an opportunity to undo some of that.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Rallies Grassroots to Get ‘Active’ in Iran Deal Organizing

Obama told participants in a conference call to get more active in their efforts to garner support for the Iran deal

President Obama told grassroots organizers on a conference call Thursday to “get moving” on efforts to make their support for the Iran deal known to members of Congress.

“You guys have to get more active and loud and involved and informed,” Obama said on conference call Thursday.

Obama challenged the organizers to take an approach opposite what organizers took when Congress was mulling whether or not to authorize the Iraq War. His frustration with that effort, he said, was in the fact that everyone got “loud and active when it was too late.”

As Congress leaves for its summer recess, the Iran Deal will likely be a major topic of discussion at town halls and meetings in their districts

Obama’s strategy hit home with at least one organizer on the call, who spoke to TIME shortly after it ended.

“The still-raw memories of the Iraq war are the single motivating factor for those of us who are pushing for the deal,” says Ben Wikler, the Washington Director for MoveOn.org, who joined the call Thursday. MoveOn.org was one of the most active groups calling for diplomacy, not war in Iraq following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

According to the White House a wide-cross section of progressive groups were invited to join the call. At the outset, Obama thanked groups including MoveOn.org, the Truman National Security Project, and Organizing for Action for their support thus far on the nuclear deal with Iran. Wikler said it was “heartening” to hear directly from the President and to know that the White House is “pulling out all the stops” to ensure that the diplomatic agreement over Iran’s nuclear program comes into fruition.

“It makes all the difference in the world if you’re calling Congress, and attending town halls to know that there are people on your side,” Wikler says.

Wikler compared the tone of the call to one that could be experienced during an election season—Obama was forceful, direct, and adamant that the his bully pulpit alone won’t see the deal through a skeptical Congress. Wikler says his organization has a similar sense of urgency around the deal, which he says is their “overriding priority” leading up to the vote.

Thursday’s call made clear that the White House is leaving nothing on the table in its effort to garner support for the historic deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Members of the Obama administration have been actively lobbying Congress over the pending deal since it was announced on July 14. Cabinet members are making regular appearances on Capitol Hill and just Wednesday a group of House Democrats attended a working reception at the White House where the Iran deal was discussed.

Despite the White House efforts, opponents of the deal remain relentless in their efforts to block it and a hefty coalition of Congressional leaders are insistent upon keeping it from passing. Congress was given 60 days to either approve or reject the deal, though Obama has said he would veto any attempt to block it.

TIME Behind the Photos

What We Can Learn From Behind-the-Scenes Photos of Dick Cheney on 9/11

Never-before-seen photographs shot inside the White House bunker on Sept. 11 offer an intimate look at how Dick Cheney was affected by the day's events

Pictures of the burning World Trade Center towers, images seared in minds around the U.S. and the world, quickly came to define the Sept. 11 attacks in graphic fashion. And it’s not hard to see why: those images shocked a nation, sowing grief, sorrow and anguish among Americans—including, as never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes images have shown, the nation’s leaders.

On July 24, the National Archives and Records Administration released 356 photos shot on Sept. 11, 2001, by Vice President Dick Cheney’s official photographer David Bohrer. The publication was the result of a decade-long fight by Frontline producer Colette Neirouz Hanna to gain access to the images. The photographs, shot as Cheney and other members of George W. Bush’s administration sought refuge in the President’s Emergency Operations Center underneath the White House, don’t reveal anything we didn’t know about that day’s events. Still, they provide insight into the emotional state of the country’s leaders at these unprecedented trying times.

“There were many pictures of the event itself,” says Fred Ritchin, a photography critic and the Dean of the School at the International Center of Photography in New York. “But, until now, we didn’t really see the response of the people in power and how they felt about it. These photographs make it much more tangible and visible. We can really feel what is being felt.”

“You can see the grief and anguish on the Vice President’s face,” adds Neirouz Hanna. “Being able to see these photos for the first time is a remarkable and important contribution to the historical record.”

Yet the photographs remained concealed for almost 15 years. “We’ve been reporting and producing films about September 11 and its aftermath since day one,” says Neirouz Hanna, “and in order to help illustrate a lot of the scenes in these films I would look for these photographs and make countless requests to the Bush administration and Cheney administration. We were just consistently denied.”

According to the Frontline producer, the administration held onto the photographs until January 2009, at which time they were transferred to the National Archives and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. After an expected five-year embargo, all documents were made available under the Freedom of Information Act.

But, an administration’s rebuttals often come from a desire to portray the office of the presidency and vice-presidency in a positive way, especially when you take into consideration the power of an image, as Ari Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary for George W. Bush, tells TIME. As a result, political concerns will dictate the type of pictures that are released by White House staffers. “There’s a political element to make the President look strong, decisive, in charge,” says Fleischer. “Unless it’s for humor, you’ll never see any White House release pictures that make the President look bad.”

Michael Davis, the Lead Picture Editor for the White House from 2001 to 2004, remembers arguing for more behind-the-scenes photographs to be disclosed on Sept. 11, but, he was convinced otherwise. “They were considering so many different things that I don’t know where the notion of informing the public [fell] on the hierarchy,” he says. “I remember having a meeting pretty late that night with the [President’s] Chief of Staff and the Communications Director, and the decision was not to release any images of the president that night because releasing photos of him on that day would have drawn attention away from what needed to be [focused on] and that was the victims and what was happening in New York and the Pentagon. I completely agreed with that.”

Even though no images would be released that day, the staff photographers continued their work. Now, years later, the images they were able to capture can add a new layer to public understanding of that dark moment in history. For example, one picture of CIA director George Tenet listening to the President’s address to the nation communicates a feeling that many officials might have tried to hide at the time: “The look on Tenet’s face really said it all,” explains Gordon Johndroe, who served as Deputy Press Secretary for the President from 2001 to 2003. “[It shows] what a long, stressful and unbelievable day it had been. And at that point, they are waiting for the President to finish his speech and walk back to the bunker because they had another meeting. Tenet knew he wasn’t going home any time soon.”

The released photographs also offer the closest look at Vice President Cheney’s emotional state on Sept. 11. “The decisions being made down there involved life and death,” says Fleischer. “For instance, the decision that the President made on Air Force One – and that he and the Vice President discussed – authorizing the shoot down of civilian aircrafts, and the moments of doubt when a civilian aircraft went down in Pennsylvania; a photographer caught that. Think of how searing, how gripping, how vivid and emotional and unscripted all that was.” And that’s what Bohrer’s photographs convey, adds Jared Ragland, a White House Photo Editor and Digital Imaging Specialist who joined Bush’s administration in 2005. “These photographs capture the emotional timbre of that morning and then throughout the day. You see these emotional responses. You see these looks of sadness, bewilderment, exhaustion. You see that human element.”

Looking at Bohrer’s images, there’s little doubt that Sept. 11 had a profound impact on the people who spent most of that day in the White House’s bunker. “That was the day that changed him,” says Johndroe, in reference to Vice President Cheney. “I think you begin to see the transformation that day, the anguish on his face.”

For Ari Fleischer, these images highlight not just the power of history to shape individuals, but also the power of photography to shape history. “It shows [people] what that day was like as if they could be there today,” he says. “That’s what photos can accomplish, and particularly on those momentous days like Pearl Harbor, like D-Day, and like Sept. 11. Our nation wants to remember and photos help people to remember.”

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME White House

White House Responds to Petition Urging Obama to Pardon Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden
Uncredited—AP FILE - This file photo image made from video released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, shows former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden smiles during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Russia.

“He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers"

The White House responded to a petition calling for President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden on Tuesday by calling for the former National Security Agency contractor to “come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers.”

Snowden, who released classified government documents detailing the widespread surveillance activities of the U.S. intelligence agencies, fled to Russia soon after the documents were released. The White House commissioned Lisa Monaco, the president’s advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, to pen the official response, which was posted to the White House’s We the People website.

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions,” Monaco writes. “He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”

Snowden’s Russian attorney said in March that the whistleblower would be willing to return to the United States if he was “given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial.”

A petition to have Snowden pardoned was launched in 2013 and gained a total of 167,954 signatures—well over the 100,000 required to warrant an official response from the White House. “Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs,” the petition reads.

The White House responded to the petition on Tuesday as a part of a wider effort to clear the backlog of petitions awaiting response on We the People and alter the way the White House responds.

TIME White House

Obama: If I Ran for a Third Term, I Could Win

"But I can't"

President Obama said that if he could run for a third term he thinks he would win, while calling for African leaders to adhere to term limits during a historic speech before the African Union.

“I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t,” Obama said in Ethiopia on Tuesday. ” There’s a lot that I’d like to do to keep America moving, but the law’s the law.”

President Obama addressed his third term viability while calling on African leaders to step aside when their terms end on Tuesday. During his speech, the first by an American president before the African Union, Obama said when a leader “tries to change the rules in the middle of the game” in order to stay in office it puts a nation’s stability and the future of Democratic progress across the continent at risk. Obama specifically noted recent elections in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term. The United Nations has said those elections occurred in an environment that was not “not conducive for an inclusive, free and credible electoral process,” according to the Associated Press.

” The point is, I don’t understand why people want to stay so long. Especially, when they’ve got a lot of money,” Obama said Tuesday, during the final stretch of his historic trip to two African countries. “And sometimes you’ll hear a leader say ‘I’m the only person who can hold this nation together.’ If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.”

Though Obama admitted he thinks he’s done a good job at the helm — something about 49% of Americans agree with, according his most recent CNN approval ratings — he didn’t hesitate to list off the freedoms he’ll gain back when he leaves office.

“I’m looking forward to life after being president,” Obama said. “I won’t have such a big security detail all the time. It means I can go take a walk, I can spend time with my family, I can find other ways to serve. I can visit Africa more often.”

TIME Malaysia

5 Reasons Why Obama Should Steer Clear of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

U.S. President Barack Obama and Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak walk off 18th hole while playing a round of golf at the Clipper Golf course in Hawaii
Hugh Gentry—Reuters U.S. President Barack Obama and Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak walk off 18th hole while playing a round of golf at the Clipper Golf course on Marine Corps Base Hawaii during Obama's Christmas holiday vacation in Kaneohe, Hawaii, on Dec. 24, 2014

Washington is having serious trouble finding dependable allies in Southeast Asia

The U.S.’s “rebalancing” toward Asia has two main pillars: being a counterweight to China and securing a free-trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If Washington is to succeed on both fronts, it needs as many friends in the region as it can win. The U.S.’s newest ally is Malaysia, this year’s chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Nation, collectively a growing market, and, on the surface, a modern, democratic, Muslim country. In April 2014 U.S. President Barack Obama paid an official visit to Malaysia, the first sitting President to do so in decades, and, later in the year, played golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when both were on holiday in Honolulu. This November, Kuala Lumpur will host the next East Asia Summit and Obama is due to attend.

But recently, all the news coming out of Malaysia is negative. After becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal, Najib on Tuesday sacked his deputy and Malaysia’s attorney general in an apparent purge of critics. British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a domestic backlash for pushing forward with a visit to Kuala Lumpur this week despite the snowballing controversy. Here are five reasons why Obama might want to break from Cameron by giving Najib a wide berth.

  1. 1MDB — A Wall Street Journal report has alleged that Najib’s personal bank accounts received nearly $700 million in March 2013 from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-owned development fund. Najib has protested his innocence and threatened legal action against the Journal. “I am not a thief,” Najib told Malaysian media on July 5. “I am not a traitor and will not betray Malaysians.” The police, the local anticorruption agency, the attorney general’s office and the central bank are investigating the allegations. On July 8, the police raided 1MDB’s office in Kuala Lumpur and took away documents. Even before the latest news, 1MDB was an embarrassment for Najib, who chaired the fund’s advisory board as debts of $11.6 billion were accrued. Such are the suspicions of malfeasance that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ran the country from 1981 to 2003 and has long been considered Najib’s mentor, has repeatedly called for his protégé’s resignation over 1MDB’s alleged mishandling.
  1. Anwar Ibrahim — Najib’s main political rival is once again in prison for a sodomy conviction. Human Rights Watch deemed his five-year sentence handed down Feb. 10 to be “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law.” This is the second time Anwar has been jailed for sodomy.
  1. Hudud — Stoning for adultery and amputation for theft are not the kind of punishments meted out by the progressive state that Malaysia purports to be. Yet Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is supporting attempts to introduce hudud Islamic law in the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) heartland state of Kelantan, where nightclubs are forbidden and men and women are designated separate public benches. Why is UMNO supportive of recognizing hudud under federal law? Largely because PAS is part of a three-party Pakatan Rakyat coalition that is UNMO’s chief challenger. The other partners — Anwar’s Keadilan, or People’s Justice Party, supported by middle-class, urban Malays, and the Chinese Malaysian–backed Democratic Action Party (DAP) — are strongly against hudud. Many analysts accuse UMNO of cynically fostering a radical Islamic bent to widen rifts in its political opponents.
  1. Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa — In 2002, when Najib was Defense Minister, a $1.25 billion contract was signed to purchase two Scorpène submarines from French firm DCNS. Altantuyaa was a Mongolian woman who, knowing French, facilitated negotiations as a translator, and then allegedly attempted to blackmail Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Najib’s aides with whom she was also having an affair, for $500,000 over “commission” payments he had allegedly received. Two policemen posted to Najib’s bodyguard detail were convicted of murdering Altantuyaa on Oct. 18, 2006. Najib denies any involvement.
  1. Prevention of Terrorism Act — Najib campaigned on scrapping the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) but then immediately replaced it with the equally sweeping Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA. The POTA includes practically the same powers as ISA, including two-year detention without trial, and was dubbed a “legal zombie arising from the grave of the abusive [ISA]” by Human Rights Watch. Najib also vowed to repeal the similarly maligned Sedition Act but reneged after his election in 2013. In fact, in April his government extended the maximum jail term under the Sedition Act from three to 20 years.
TIME viral

Watch Obama Steal the Show by Dancing the Lipala During His Visit to Kenya

It seems the commander-in-chief can cut a rug like the best of them

We knew he could bring down the house singing Al Green and “Amazing Grace,” but we’d rarely seen Barack Obama put on his dancing shoes — until now.

Between stops in the busy itinerary of his visit to Kenya this weekend, which included visiting his father’s family and giving a ringing speech on Africa’s potential for innovation, Obama found time to dine at Nairobi’s State House. There, he joined Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, first lady Margaret Kenyatta, and U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice in doing the Lipala. A traditional dance common at rural celebrations, the Lipala has returned to mainstream popularity recently after Kenyan afro-pop stars Sauti Sol chose its moves to accompany the video of their hit song “Sura Yako (Your Face).”

The band, which performed at the dinner, posted a video on Instagram showing Obama getting down with fellow dignitaries, ably keeping up with the steps and clearly enjoying himself.

TIME White House

See How the Bush Administration Responded to 9/11 in Newly Released Photos

Bush, Cheney, Rice and others can be seen in the President's Emergency Operations Center

Americans have seen the photo of the chief of staff whispering the news of 9/11 into George W. Bush’s ear the morning of the attack in an elementary school classroom, and they know the iconic images of the former president speaking into a bullhorn amid the rubble at Ground Zero three days later. But now new photos have been released that shed light on what was going on behind the scenes in the wake of the attack.

A Freedom of Information Act request from a Frontline producer has turned up a collection of images from the National Archives taken by former Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff photographer in the aftermath of the attack, as Cheney and others gathered in the President’s Emergency Operations Center underneath the White House. Then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, First Lady Laura Bush, Second Lady Lynne Cheney and other prominent officials feature in the photos. See the full gallery of photos here.

TIME White House

Obama Reunites With Father’s Family in Kenya

This is Obama's first trip to Kenya as U.S. President

(NAIROBI, Kenya)—Fulfilling the hopes of millions of Kenyans, Barack Obama returned to his father’s homeland Friday for the first time as U.S. president, a long sought visit by a country that considers him a local son.

The president spent the evening reuniting with his Kenyan family, including his elderly step-grandmother who made the trip to the capital of Nairobi from her rural village. U.S. and Kenyan flags lined the main road from Nairobi’s airport, and billboards heralding Obama’s trip dotted the city.

“I don’t think that Kenyans think of Obama as African-American. They think of him as Kenyan-American,” said EJ Hogendoorn, deputy program director for Africa at the International Crisis Group.

Obama’s link to Kenya is a father he barely knew, but whose influence can nonetheless be seen in his son’s presidency.

Obama has spoken candidly about growing up without his Kenyan-born father and feeling “the weight of that absence.” A White House initiative to support young men of color who face similar circumstances has become a project dear to Obama, one he plans to continue after leaving the White House.

In Africa, Obama has used his late father’s struggle to overcome government corruption as a way to push leaders to strengthen democracies. He’s expected to make good governance and democracy-building a centerpiece of his two days of meetings and speeches in Nairobi, as well as a stop next week in Ethiopia.

“In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career,” Obama said during a 2009 trip to Ghana, his first visit to Africa as president. “We know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many.”

The president’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., left Kenya as a young man to study at the University of Hawaii. There, he met Stanley Ann Dunham, a white woman from Kansas. They would soon marry and have a son, who was named after his father.

The elder Obama left Hawaii when he son was just two years old, first to continue his studies at Harvard, then to return to Kenya. The future president and his father would see each other just once more, when the son was 10 years old. Obama’s father died in a car crash in 1982, at age 46.

“I didn’t have a dad in the house,” Obama said last year during a White House event for My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative for young men. “I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.”

Obama’s first trip to Kenya nearly 30 years ago was a quest to fill in the gaps in the story of his father’s life. In his memoir “Dreams From My Father,” Obama wrote that at the time of his death, “my father remained a mystery to me, both more and less than a man.”

What Obama uncovered was a portrait of a talented, but troubled man. An economist for the Kenyan government, the senior Obama clashed with then-President Jomo Kenyatta over tribal divisions and allegations of corruption. He was ultimately fired by the president, sending him into a tailspin of financial problems and heavy drinking.

The Kenyan leader Obama will meet with this weekend, Uhuru Kenyatta, is the son of the president his father confronted decades ago.

Obama met most of his Kenyan family for the first time on that initial trip to his father’s home country. As he stepped off Air Force One Friday, he was greeted by half-sister Auma Obama, pulling her into a warm embrace. The siblings then joined about three dozen family members at a restaurant at the president’s hotel for a private dinner.

Logistical constraints and security precautions prevented Obama from visiting Kogelo, the village where his father lived and is buried, on this trip. Sarah Obama, the step-grandmother he calls “Granny,” still lives in the village.

Despite the intense focus on the American leader’s local roots, the White House has cast the trip as one focused on the relationship between the U.S. and Kenya, not the president and his family. Officials say Obama’s agenda is heavily focused on trade and economic issues, as well as security and counterterrorism cooperation.

The president is traveling with nearly two dozen U.S. lawmakers, along with 200 U.S. investors attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha did not accompany the president.

Auma Obama said she believed her late father would be proud to see his son return to Kenya as American president.

“He’d be extremely proud and say, ‘Well done,'” she said in an interview with CNN. “But then he’d add, ‘But obviously, you’re an Obama.'”

 

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com