Tag Archives: hawaii

Maya Soetoro-Ng visits Professor Ahmed’s “American Identity” class

Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng at Professor Ahmed's class at American University

Like so many of my peers, I set off a couple years ago to college in Washington, DC, looking to save the world, or at least change it, and promptly found that the world is a bit uncooperative.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a glut of well-intentioned young people in pursuit of college degrees and world peace at the moment.  To be quite honest, I seem to be a good bit more cynical now than ever before.  That cynicism held for my last real class of the semester, in which we would have Maya Soetoro-Ng as a speaker.  “She’s only coming to speak because she’s President Obama’s sister,” said my inner snark, which may have been right.  However, I was to be blown out of my complacency and ennui by Ms. Soetoro-Ng and her message.  The course focused on American identity and the American Muslim community and was taught by Ambassador Prof. Akbar Ahmed.  In our explorations of what it means to be American, we had played host to many distinguished visitors who eloquently addressed us; Ms. Soetoro-Ng, in my opinion, now tops the list, and I only wish she taught in DC.

Now, follow this closely: Ms. Soetoro-Ng is an Indonesian-American born in Indonesia to a mostly-Unitarian woman from Kansas, and spent parts of her childhood in Hawai’i before falling in love with salsa and meringue and deciding to learn Spanish.  She now identifies as Buddhist and is married to a Malaysian-Chinese-Canadian-American. Continue reading


Thanksgiving in Hawaii


Thanksgiving dinner

We have been focusing a lot on this trip on the history of America. We went to Plymouth itself to understand the birth of America and its myths. Thanksgiving is of course the quintessential American holiday between the Pilgrims who came from England to build their own “city upon a hill” but barely could make it through the winter. The Wampanog tribe offered them food and together they had a feast sometime in November which we now celebrate as Thanksgiving.

We had a Thanksgiving unlike any other I have experienced in Hawaii. It reflects how far we have come—geographically and culturally—in our journey and as a nation. Hawaii is an interesting state, unlike any other, that prides itself on its diversity and openness. I had been here once previously for a conference on diversity due to the fact that whites are the minority here. The native Hawaiians and Asian-Americans make up the majority of the people. So what does a Thanksgiving in a context totally removed from Plymouth, white settlers, or sweet potatoes look like? Continue reading