“I believe I met Barack Obama in Hawaii in 1980.”
By James Bancroft
I joined the Marines in 1977.
The failed rescue attempt of the hostages had happened in Iran . My squadron was flying search and rescue the day the aircraft left the USS Nimitz on the afternoon of April 24, 1980 in the Arabian Sea . After the mission was aborted and the crash happened, our ship had set sail to Mombassa for liberty. The ship spent 4 days in Mombassa. I made time to go on a short safari in the Tsavo East National park, seeing elephants and hippos in the wild, some gazelles, water buffalo, some large birds and one particular lizard the size of a German Shepard that I held up for everyone to take pictures of while it lazed about in the daytime sun.
While back in Hawaii by late June of 1980, we went back to Honolulu for liberty and stopped at a small shop where I struck up a conversation with a young man, Mulatto, about 18, all teeth, smiling, skinny, short hair that I remember, at least short for the year we lived in. He told me he lived in Hawaii . Not too many black Americans lived in Hawaii at all, now or then, so he being there was an oddity. I asked if he was in the service and he said no. I told him that I was a Marine and had recently gotten back from float.
What strikes me most is what he said as to where he grew up: Indonesia . He told me he wanted to be President of the US someday. I remember lightly smiling and commenting that maybe by the time he gets to be 40 or so, America will be ready for a Black man to be President and I wished him luck. We spoke of the racial tensions I saw at home while growing up and I asked him if he ever saw that overseas or since he returned back to Hawaii . I don’t remember his answer, but we spoke more of his time overseas and his thoughts on life and philosophy of government. He made some strange comments to me, it was obvious he never set foot for any time on continental United States and I told him he better realize that he is making judgments about the United States when he himself never actually lived there. I told him, “ Hawaii aint the United States !”
He also told me something that I never forgot, for it caused me to do some other things in an effort to be nice to him and possibly a favor. We spoke of where I had been and the world as I saw it. I told him I had been to Africa , Mombassa specifically, and he said to me abruptly, “I was born there.” I told him he is not eligible to be president if that was true, but I remembered he said his mom was an American, so, maybe it was okay. But it was what I did after that makes this a true memory: I went back to the barracks and told others of this guy and suggested we all grab our photo albums and visit him again and show him pictures of Mombassa so he could see where he was from.
No one wanted to go, and at that time, my camera had failed the weeks before we hit Mombassa and it was late August or early September until I had borrowed someone else’s pictures to develop myself so I had copies of where I was. But I never forgot meeting that man for those reasons. I was going to do him a favor and show him his home country of birth. And I never went back for some reason, most likely I forgot to or just felt that a one time chance encounter would be meaningless to both of us and didn’t mean we were friends.
In the light of what is called “The Birther” movement, these memories are still foremost in my mind concerning this. While I cannot swear it was Barak Obama, all the details I do remember of that chance encounter fit the profile of the man who some people claim is born in Kenya and others claim he was born in Hawaii . The man I met was about 18, thin, Mulatto, told me he was born in Mombassa, raised overseas, was living in Hawaii and hadn’t yet been to many places in the world outside of those places, mostly, hadn’t been to the mainland of America for any long time period if at all. And he openly told me he wanted to be President.
And I remember that face, the face of a young man who sat on a table to my right front, his hands resting on the edge of the table, him leaning forward, his smile, all teeth. It was Barak Obama. I was there, and saw him, spoke to him, and he openly told me he was born in Mombassa Kenya , not Hawaii .
Does it matter? Of course it does. It should not have to be explained as to why it matters. NOIRI