Former President Barack Obama visited his father’s ancestral home Monday to launch a new state-of-the-art youth center that will be run by his half-sister, Auma Obama.
The trip marked Obama’s first trip to Kenya since he left office last year. The last time he visited the country in 2015 as president, he was unable to visit his father’s home of Kogelo, nor was he able to step into the house of his step-grandmother Sarah Obama.
“It is a joy to be back with so many people who are family to me, and so many people who claim to be family. Everybody’s a cousin!” he joked to the crowd at the opening. Thousands showed up to hear him speak at the ceremony, but they could not access the venue due to high security.
During his speech, the former president recalled his first trip to Kenya when he as 27, and the long journey it took to finally arrive at his father’s birthplace.
“And I looked up at the stars and… it gave me a sense of satisfaction that no five-star hotel could ever provide,” he said.
According to AFP, the new center will offer state-of-the-art facilities to local youth, giving them access to books, internet, sporting activities, and classes.
Obama writes about the experience at length in his memoir Dreams From My Father. In the book, Obama admits to never truly knowing his economist father, Barack Obama Sr. He walked out when the younger Obama was just two and died in a car crash in Nairobi in 1982.
Obama is now headed to South Africa where he will give a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and meet with 200 young Africans in the Obama Foundation’s leadership program.