New Delhi, January 27: The rise of a cook’s grandson to the presidency of the US and being queried about his religious beliefs. This and some other vignettes from his persol life and history were related by US President Barack Obama in his public address on Tuesday as he rrated, with a little anguish, as to how he is sometimes “treated differently” because of the colour of his skin. Obama, addressing a town hall meeting at the 2,000–seating capacity Siri Fort Auditorium, one of the largest in the capital that is the venue for large concerts, said that his grandfather “was a cook for the British army in Kenya” and that “distant branches of Michelle’s family were slaves”. “When we were born people who looked like us still could not vote in some parts of the country,” said Obama, the first coloured president of the US.
Referring to the colour prejudice that continues to exist in some parts of the US, he said: “Even as America has blessed us with the extraordiry opportunity (to be president), there are moments when I am treated differently because of the colour of my skin.” Parts of the US have been rocked by anger over the fatal shooting incidents of urmed black teens and young men by white policemen. The incidents, including in Ferguson, have led to loud protests, especially with no action being taken against the erring policemen. He said that both he and Michelle follow the Christian faith but there have been times when people have questioned his faith. “I am also proud to live in a country where the grandson of cook can be president” and also referred to the opportunities in India where “a Dalit can write the constitution and a tea seller can be prime minister”, referring to Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar, who is known as father of the Indian constitution, and to Prime Minister rendra Modi, who is known to have sold tea in his youth on the railway platform in his hometown in Gujarat. “The aim of our work must be that everybody has the chance to dream big and reach those limits,” he said, to loud claps.
Obama struck a persol chord with the mainly youthful crowd, saying he was very impressed with the daredevilry of the motorcycle contingent riding Royal Enfield bikes and wished he could ride a bike too. “But the Secret Service does not let me ride motor cycles”. He said that on his last visit to Mumbai he and Michelle had danced with the youth, and that the next day newspapers had praised her dancing. But, he said “unfortutely, we were not able to schedule any dancing on this visit.” Speaking on women’s rights, he referred to Michelle, who was in the audience, and said: “Michelle is a strong and intelligent woman. She is not afraid to speak her mind or tell me when I am wrong, which happens very frequently”, to loud cheers from the invited audience that comprised youths, students, NGOs and diplomats.
He said he was the proud father to two strong and beautiful girls, who the couple have been raising with strong values. The US’ first couple later held hands and walked down and met the ecstatic audience and shook hands with them for close to 10 minutes. (IANS)