Not Just a ‘White Woman From Kansas’

Looking at photos of President Obama and his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, reporter Janny Scott saw a more complex, interesting woman than the one depicted in the media and Obama’s memoir Dreams From My Father. So she set out to explore the life of the president’s mother, who died of cancer in 1995. In an excerpt in The New York Times Magazine, Scott recounts Dunham’s life in Indonesia, where she stuck out as a confident, headstrong woman. Dunham was proud of her son and felt he could go far—perhaps even to the White House—but was also frustrated by her domestic life with Lolo Soetoro, her second husband, and her work life. The president told Scott that he led a chaotic life that would have been tough without the anchor of his grandmother. But he said his mother “was a very strong person in her own way” who gave her children “a sense of unconditional love that was big enough that, with all the surface disturbances of our lives, it sustained me, entirely.”