President Barack Obama has yet to read the letters his late father wrote while in Kenya seeking financial aid to study in the United States more than 50 years ago that were recently discovered by a researcher in New York City.
"The papers are rich; they tell a fascinating, traditional, self-made man's story," Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, told The New York Times
. "There’s a reason to bear witness to the personal legacy that is here."
The letters from Barack Hussein Obama Sr. were discovered at the Schomburg among the papers of a foundation that provided scholarships to African students to study in the United States in the 1950s, the Times reports. He was living in Kenya at the time.
In 2013, the Harlem-based center invited President Obama to see the documents. They include nearly two dozen letters, transcripts from the University of Hawaii and Harvard University — along with references from professors, advisers and supporters.
"Nearly three years later, as Mr. Obama celebrates his last Father’s Day in the White House, the center is still waiting for a response," the Times reports.
A senior White House official told the newspaper that President Obama would most likely be interested in seeing the documents once leaving office, but otherwise would not comment as to why "administration officials had not responded to the letter or to follow-up correspondence."
In an October 1958 letter
, for instance, the elder Obama wrote: “It has been my long cherished ambition to further my studies in America, but due to financial inability, I have not been able to do this."
Through these letters, Obama obtained the aid to study in the United States, where he would meet and marry Ann Dunham, a classmate from Wichita, Kansas, and father a son who would become the nation's first African-American president.
Obama Sr. returned to Kenya in 1964, when his son was 3 years old. He visited him only once, for a month in Hawaii, when he was 10.
The elder Obama had a wife and two children in Kenya — and never mentioned his U.S. marital status on his application forms.
Before leaving the country, he earned a master's degree in economics from Harvard. Obama died in a car crash in Kenya in 1982. He was 46 and had hoped to become a government economist.
The Times said that the documents were being "described publicly here for the first time," saying that they rendered "a portrait of Barack Obama Sr. in his own words, sometimes in his own handwriting, as he describes his studies in the United States.
"But it also lays bare the beginnings of the fractured relationship between father and son."
President Obama has discussed the void his father left in his life in the 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father."
He said that he had visited Kenya when he was in his 20s, discovering some insight into his father.
However, "I still didn’t know the man my father had been," the president wrote. "What had shaped his ambitions?"
Obama told the Times last month
that his not having his father in his life had left him struggling during his teenage years to figure out "what it meant to be a man."
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