Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
Maya Soetoro-Ng spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Monday.
Maya Soetoro-Ng spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Monday. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
When Barack Obama finishes his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president, his extended family will join him onstage — and present America with a tableau unlike anything they've ever seen at a nominating convention.
"We are colorful, for sure," Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's sister, told Michele Norris.
Obama's mother was white and from Kansas; his father was black and Kenyan. Obama and Soetoro-Ng grew up in the unique culture of Hawaii.
"I have great hope that that spectrum will be regarded as gorgeous, and that everyone will see themselves in it," said Soetoro-Ng, who teaches high school in Hawaii.
In Obama's extended family, there are many mixed marriages, encompassing white, black, Indonesian and Chinese-Canadian.
But, Soetoro-Ng said, the audience should also realize that the Obamas are a family like any other.
"I'm hoping that they will see the warmth and the affection of their own families" when the audience looks at the group onstage, she said.
Obama's political opponents are expected to attempt to use that wide diversity against Obama in the presidential campaign, to suggest that it will be a challenge for voters to accept the family's diversity.
"But I don't think it's going to be that challenging," Soetoro-Ng said. "I think that the American people are ready. I think they understand that our family actually reflects the American tapestry."
And the group won't reflect its full range: The family's Kenyan contingent won't be able to be present.
Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, raised her children to look at their diversity as a strength.
"She encouraged us to use it well," Soetoro-Ng said, as something that gave them the ability to live anywhere, and to relate to anyone — even, it turns out, on the presidential campaign trail.