U.S. Senator Barack Obama delighted crowds with a homecoming speech Saturday in his family's ancestral village of Nyangoma Kogelo, Nyanza province, in western Kenya. The Senator made time to visit his grandmother and other family members, while on an unofficial six-day tour of regional development and AIDS projects in Kenya.
The Illinois Senator began his tour of western Kenya on Saturday morning by taking a voluntary HIV test in Nyanza General Hospital to encourage an AIDS prevention campaign in the highly affected region. He then received a joyous reception from thousands of people at a primary school in his late father's village.
Senator Obama, who grew up in the United States, traces his father's origins to the small and humble village close to the shores of Lake Victoria in Eastern Africa.
In his speech to well-wishers, Obama expressed a deep sense of solidarity with this small community and the Kenyan people. He said his father's remarkable life is the story of what is possible when a community comes together to support its children.
"He grew up around here. He was taking care of goats for my grandfather, and, maybe, sometimes, he would go to a school not so different from the Senator Barack Obama School," he said. "Except, maybe, it was smaller, and had even less in terms of equipment and books, the teachers were paid even less, and, sometimes, there wasn't enough money to go to school full time. Yet, despite all that, the community lifted him up, and gave him the opportunity to go to secondary school, then go to university in America, then get a Ph. D. in Harvard..."
Obama is only the fifth African-American to ever sit in the U.S. Senate, and his trip to Kenya has been highly anticipated by his relatives, the community and local politicians.
He has also used his personal connection to Kenya to challenge the country's leaders about good governance and fighting corruption. He warned that aid packages alone will not deliver development, and said the key to Kenya's success will come from its own people.
The Senator's wife and children were by his side, as he gave his commitment to help make sure that children around the world will have an equal chance for higher education and wider opportunities.
"That's why I'm so dedicated to trying to make sure that our young people, in Kenya, in the United States, in the Congo, all children can be well, all children can get the medicines that they need, all children have the opportunity to study, and, ultimately, get employment, so that they in turn can support a family, that all children have that same opportunity," continued Obama. "There is no reason why we can't do that. We have enough resources. We have the knowledge. We have the technology. What we lack is the commitment and will."
Obama has been on a five-nation tour of Africa, taking time to visit his father's home and relatives in western Kenya. This is his third visit to Kenya since the death of his father, Hussein Obama. All of Nyanza province helped prepare the heroes welcome that included T-shirts, baseball caps and even a local drink named after the celebrated senator.
Senator Obama is devoted to fighting HIV/AIDS and has made a personal donation of $14,000 to an AIDS orphan care facility in Kenya. He is also committed to making Africa a top priority in American foreign policy.