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