President Barack Obama packed a crowded gym in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday to deliver a speech in his father’s home country. With nearly 5,000 Kenyans cheering him on, the president offered his own personal history as evidence that all Africans have the potential to rise from even the most difficult circumstances.
“When it comes to the people of Kenya, especially the youth, I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve,” Obama said. “You can build your future right here, right now.”
Referring to himself as “the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States,” Obama delivered an impassioned speech that was steeped in pride in his own African heritage. At the same time, he said some traditions need to be abandoned. He likened removing the Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy in America to Africa’s oppression of women. He called for equal rights for women in Africa.
“Treating women as a second-class citizen is a bad tradition. It’s holding you back,” he added, condemning domestic violence, sexual assault and genital mutilation.
The president also spoke out against ethnic divisions and government corruption.
The president was introduced to the crowd by his half-sister, Auma Obama, who said her brother “continues to be very attached to us.”
“He gets us,” Auma Obama said. “He’s one of us.”
Also in the audience, along with members of Congress and U.S. business leaders, was the president’s half-brother, Malik Obama, who said he was grateful his powerful sibling “finally came to Kenya” as commander-in-chief.
“This is an important step in uniting everybody and showing the whole world a true sense of brotherhood,” Malik Obama said.
Noting the growing threat of the terrorist group, al Shabaab, Obama told the crowd that the U.S. will intensify its cooperation with the Kenyan government in its ongoing battle. Terrorism was a major area of discussion with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight against terrorism — for as long as it takes,” Obama said during Sunday’s speech.