Life

We're all coming to the
ball: 'First Sister' Maya
Soetoro-Ng

You can now call her First Sister. Maya Soetoro-Ng, born and raised in Jakarta, will be the first person of Indonesian heritage to be part of a U.S. presidential family when her half-brother Barack Obama is sworn in as 44th president on Jan. 20. In her first interview since Obama's election victory, Soetoro-Ng talked exclusively from her home in Hawaii with Metro TV's Dalton Tanonaka about her emotions when grandmother Madelyn Dunham passed away shortly before election day, her desire to visit Indonesia soon, and her Inauguration Day plans.

Question:: Maya, you're planning on attending the Washington inaugural, correct? Answer: Yes, I am. Who is going and how big an event would this be for you and your family? Well, I think that the event is growing ever larger. I think that this is something in which so many people want to participate, and I'm proud of that fact. I mean, it's just like the election itself, people want to be present and feel like they have a stake in it.

So I think it's going to be a very lively affair. My immediate family is going, of course, my husband, and my husband's family, they live in Canada. And I think that some of my Indonesian family is also going to be there, my uncle Trisulo, and my cousins. I want to ask about your Indonesian relatives in a bit, but I want to ask you a little bit about election day itself. Now I know that it was an emotional time for you and your brother as your grandmother passed away just days before.

What went through your mind, and your heart, when Barack's victory was announced?

Well, I think that it's very hard to sort out all of those feelings both for Barack and for myself. I mean, I think that we understood the enormity of that moment and it felt like there was a complex matrix of emotions running through us.

Ultimately we, I think sort of felt like she (grandmother) had perhaps passed on in order to fly over there and offer her support in ways that she could not when she was trapped by her body. I knew that she knew that he was going to be president and she watched CNN and other news channels, just in advance of her passing on the very day that she died in fact.

And she knew that she'd made a tremendous impact on his (Obama's) life, and had contributed a great deal to make this moment possible.

You know your mother Ann (Dunham-Soetoro) is well known here in Indonesia. Do you think she would have anticipated this day?

Well, she knew what an amazing son she had sired, and I think that, I think that all of us are surprised by all the pop culture emanating from this event. But I think that she also recognized that she raised a son who would make a real difference, someone who was dignified, and who would seek out opportunities for activisms and engagement within the global community as well as national.

Maya, as you know, we've been talking with your Indonesian relatives, and they are planning to attend the inauguration as you mentioned. Will your brother take notice that his Indonesian family will be represented there?

Yes, he knows that they're coming. Of course, this event is going to be an overwhelming time for him emotionally, and I think that there are going to be so many people there. He has expressed the desire to visit with them and to honor Lolo Soetoro's family and memory at another time as well.

He has expressed disappointment that he'll be too busy to spend a lot of time with his family. But he is grateful for their support. He has been grateful for the support of Indonesians and other people all over the world.

I certainly will see my Indonesian family, and I think 16 people are coming, and we are going to have a nice little family reunion at some point and (I will) carve out the time for that.

And maybe they'll bring some Indonesian goodies for you ...

Ya, mudah-mudahan (Yes, hopefully).

There is speculation when the new president is going to visit his former childhood home. When do you want to visit your birthplace?

Oh, well, I would love to visit as soon as possible. I want to make sure that when I do visit that conditions are optimal for my doing so, and that means that in terms of my job, and my daughter and my family and all of my affairs in the United States.

That I don't have a lot of things kind of dangling, and right now, things are a bit hectic still, and we've got to get through this inauguration. But I assure you, it will be sooner rather than later ... I miss it quite a bit. I would like my husband (Konrad) and my daughter (Suhaila) to get to know the place.

Alright Maya, we look forward to your return, and of course your brother's return. Thank you very much, Maya Soetoro-Ng in Hawaii, terima kasih for your time and talk to you again soon.

Terima kasih banyak. Selamat malam. (Thank you. Good night.)

The above interview was made available to The Jakarta Post.

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