Author, educator — and the president’s half-sister

There are days that Maya Soetoro-Ng is asked lots of questions about President Barack Obama.

Have you offered him advice?

Do you get to talk to him?

Will he visit Hawaii soon?

The answers are no, yes and maybe.

Soetoro-Ng has a bit of insight to this country’s leader, since she is his half-sister.

“We have a nice relationship,” she said Thursday during a phone interview with The Garden Island. “He works very hard to make sure family gets plenty of his attention.”

Soetoro-Ng will visit Kauai Sunday to talk story at Kumu Camp in Anahola. After the 3 p.m. event, she will sign copies of her children’s book, “Ladder to the Moon.”

The public is welcome, but is encouraged to get there early as space is limited.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Soetoro-Ng said of her stop in Kauai. The Oahu resident and college instructor loves the slow pace, diversity and canyons of The Garden Isle.

Her friendship with Christina Lagdameo of Yoga on Kauai led Soetoro-Ng to hold the fundraiser for the organization, whose mission is to make yoga and meditation accessible to all on Kauai, especially Native Hawaiian youth.

Yoga on Kauai holds yoga classes and retreats with its partner, Kumu Camp, in Anahola.

Soetoro-Ng believes yoga and meditation have benefited her, and can help others, too, resolve conflict, anger management, and overall well being, physically and emotionally. It can enhance focus and clarity, too, she said.

“Peace begins with us,” she said.

President Obama and Soetoro-Ng share the same mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, and spent several years together in Indonesia and in Hawaii before Dunham returned to Indonesia with Maya, while Barack stayed in Hawaii with his grandparents, according to news reports.

Soetoro-Ng, an author and speaker, will be on Kauai a few days, visiting with friends, perhaps planting trees and just relaxing.

“It will be a lovely retreat,” she said.

On Oahu, she said people rarely ask her about the 44th president.

“I’m not always seen as the president’s sister,” she said.

As for offering advice to her brother, Soetoro-Ng said, no, she doesn’t. She keeps her opinions to herself.

“I know things are more complicated than I understand,” she said. “I have to remember I’m not part of the administration.”

“He doesn’t need to hear too much clamor from family,” she added. “Family should be about family.”

Her brother and his family, she said, may visit Hawaii if he finds time for a vacation.

“He needs a sanctuary, too,” she said.


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