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President Obama's Sister Says Indonesian Stay Shaped His World View

Says 'His view as president is quite broad'

Washington, D.C., December 16, 2009 – Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama's half-sister, told the Voice of America (VOA) that her brother, who lived in Indonesia as a child, has a broad world view and "recognizes that we need to work in concert" with people around the world.

Soetoro-Ng, in an exclusive interview with VOA's Indonesian Service, was asked how Obama's early life outside the United States may have influenced him.

"His view as president is quite broad," she said. "He is very much an American and a patriot, but he also recognizes that we need to work in concert with other [countries] and that we need to have friends in other parts of the world, as was expressed during his Nobel Peace Prize speech." Obama lived from 1967-1971 in Indonesia where his sister was born.

Soetoro-Ng also talked about her late mother, S. Ann Dunham, who conducted research for 14 years in Java, Indonesia, mostly in the village of Kajar, for her doctoral dissertation.

Dunham's thesis, Surviving Against the Odds, Village Industry in Indonesia, was recently published, Soetoro-Ng said. Dunham, who received her degrees from the University of Hawaii, died in 1995.

"Kajar was interesting to her because she enjoyed working with people who were doing practical things, making tools of agriculture, but also working with aesthetic and artistic products," said Soetoro-Ng. "In a country like Indonesia, we have to look beyond white-rice cultivation. We have to look at these cottage industries."

Soetoro-Ng said her mother "would have been amazed and proud" that her son had become president. "I also know that it wouldn’t have changed her. She would have been exactly the same woman."

Soetoro-Ng, who lives in Hawaii, spoke in English and Indonesian. The interview will air in Indonesia on RCTI, one of the leading national television networks in Indonesia, on Thursday morning Jakarta time. VOA Indonesian programs are heard on 220 radio stations and a dozen or more TV stations in Indonesia. More than 16 million Indonesians watch or listen to VOA regularly.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages and are intended exclusively for audiences outside of the United States. VOA is the leading U.S. international broadcaster.

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