Maya Soetoro-Ng

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Maya Soetoro-Ng
Soetoro-Ng in 2013
Maya Kasandra Soetoro

(1970-08-15) August 15, 1970 (age 53)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 2003)
RelativesBarack Obama (half-brother)

Maya Kasandra Soetoro-Ng (née Soetoro; /ˈm.ə sˈtɔːr ˈɪŋ/;[1] born August 15, 1970) is an Indonesian-born American academic, who is a faculty specialist at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, based in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is also a consultant for the Obama Foundation, working to develop the Asia-Pacific Leaders Program. Formerly a high school history teacher, Soetoro-Ng is the maternal half-sister of Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Soetoro-Ng was born in Saint Carolus Hospital, a Catholic hospital, in Jakarta, Indonesia,[3] the daughter of American cultural anthropologist Ann Dunham, an American of Swiss, German, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English descent and Indonesian businessman Lolo Soetoro. Her elder half-brother is the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. She has said she was named after American poet Maya Angelou.[4]

Soetoro-Ng and Obama spent several years together in Indonesia and in Hawaii before her mother decided to return to Indonesia with her.[2] After her parents divorced in 1980, her father remarried. From this marriage, Soetoro-Ng has another half-brother, Yusuf Aji Soetoro (b. 1981) and a half-sister, Rahayu Nurmaida Soetoro (b. 1984).[5]

While living in Indonesia, Soetoro-Ng was home-schooled by her mother. From 1981 to 1984, Soetoro-Ng attended Jakarta International School.[6] Like Obama, Soetoro-Ng returned to Hawaii and attended the private Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii,[7] graduating in 1988.[8]

Soetoro-Ng received her B.A. degree from Barnard College of Columbia University.[9] She then received an M.A. in secondary language studies and an M.A. in Secondary Education from New York University.[10] In 2006, she received a Ph.D. in international comparative education from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.[11]

According to The New York Times, Soetoro-Ng "has often spoken warmly about her relationship with her older brother" and their families have "often celebrated Christmas in Hawaii" together.[2]


Soetoro-Ng is currently a faculty specialist for the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, which is based in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, as well as a consultant for the Obama Foundation's Leaders Program: Asia-Pacific. Dr. Soetoro-Ng teaches courses on: Peace Education; the History of Peace Movements; and Leadership for Social Change. She also oversees externships for undergraduates who are majoring or minoring in Peace Studies and coordinates the institute's community and global service learning programs.

Soetoro-Ng was an assistant professor at the Institute for Teacher Education at the University of Hawai'i College of Education and continues to do some consulting work, promoting international exchange and understanding, in partnership with the East West Center. She authored a children's book, Ladder to the Moon, that was inspired by her mother and her daughter, Suhaila; it was published in 2011.[12][13] She is working on a book about peace education and a young adult novel entitled Yellowood.[2]

Soetoro-Ng was a high school history teacher at La Pietra: Hawaii School for Girls and the Education Laboratory School, both in Honolulu, Hawaii. She previously taught and developed curriculum at The Learning Project, an alternative public middle school in New York City, from 1996 to 2000.[14]

In 2009, Soetoro-Ng helped bring her mother's dissertation to publication in the form of the book Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia.[15] She wrote a foreword to the book and participated in its launch at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting.

In 2019, Soetoro-Ng, along with Todd Shuster and Jennifer Gates cofounded The Peace Studio: a non-profit organization whose mission is to support, train and unite the next generation of artists, journalists and storytellers to inspire people everywhere to become active peacebuilders.[16][17]

Soetoro-Ng speaking during the first day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.


Soetoro-Ng's doctoral research at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa focused on Multicultural and International Education. She examined the use of narrative to develop more complex understandings of identity in multicultural classrooms. She promoted the learning of Social Studies—history and current events—from multiple perspectives. She has developed and implemented peace education curricula in public high schools and for K-12 teachers in Colleges of Education. With partner Kerrie Urosevich, she founded the nonprofit Ceeds of Peace (, which connects families, community leaders and educators in a 360 degree approach to raise and educate peacebuilding leaders.[18] With environmental law professor Maxine Burkett, she co-founded the nonprofit, Institute for Climate and Peace ( which works for climate justice at the intersection of climate change and positive peacebuilding.

Obama presidential campaigns[edit]

In May 2007, Soetoro-Ng announced that she would assist Obama in his campaign for presidency,[19][20] and took two months off to campaign for him.[21] She participated in the 2008 Democratic National Convention,[22] where she spoke briefly about growing up with her brother and brought an Asian-American presence to the stage.[23]

Soetoro-Ng also spoke briefly about the Obama administration's accomplishments at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2012, sharing the podium with First Lady Michelle Obama's older brother, former Oregon State University men's basketball team head coach, Craig Robinson.[24]

Personal life[edit]

In 2003,[25] Maya Soetoro married Konrad Ng (Simplified Chinese: 吴加儒), a Chinese Canadian from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.[26][27] Ng, who is of Malaysian Chinese descent, is now also a US citizen.[28] He was the director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii's Academy of Creative Media.[29] He is now the executive director of the Doris Duke Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Culture in Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii. They have two daughters, Suhaila[29] and Savita.

Soetoro-Ng has described herself as "philosophically Buddhist".[21] She speaks Indonesian,[30] Spanish,[31] and English.

See also[edit]


  • Ladder to the Moon (2011) – a children's book narrated by Maya Soetoro-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. The title of the book is taken from the 1958 Georgia O'Keeffe painting, which was depicted on a postcard the author was given by her mother.
  • Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids by Kip Fulbeck (2010) – Soetoro-Ng is credited with writing the foreword.


  1. ^ YouTube: Barack Obama's sister Maya explains the Hawaii Caucus.
  2. ^ a b c d Swarns, Rachel (July 31, 2009). "Obama and sister to share a town". New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  3. ^ "Obama Family Tree".
  4. ^ Clark, Paul C. (September 25, 2008). "Obama's Better Half Appeals To Women". Rhinoceros Times. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved October 28, 2008.
  5. ^ Habib, Ridlwan (November 5, 2008). "Keluarga Besar Lolo Soetoro, Kerabat Dekat Calon Presiden Amerika/Lolo Soetoro's Extended Family, Close Relatives to American Presidential Nominee". Jawa Pos Daily. Archived from the original on February 25, 2009.
  6. ^ Nakaso, Dan (September 12, 2008). "Obama's mother's work focus of UH seminar". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
  7. ^ "Half sister launches Hawaii family support for Obama". Archived from the original on September 14, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2008.
  8. ^ Carlyn Tani (Spring 2007). "A kid called Barry: Barack Obama '79". Punahou Bulletin. Punahou School. Archived from the original on October 21, 2008. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  9. ^ "On NPR, Susan Stamberg '59 interviews Maya Soetoro-Ng '93". Retrieved May 14, 2012.
  10. ^ "Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need". Konrad's Blog. Retrieved January 20, 2009.
  11. ^ "Convention 2008: Siblings Of Barack And Michelle Obama To Speak Tonight". Democratic National Convention 2008. August 25, 2008. Archived from the original on September 25, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "Obama's Half-Sister to Release Children's Book". NY Times. April 2, 2009.
  13. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (April 13, 2011). "Maya Soetoro-Ng Is the Latest Obama-Family Author". The New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  14. ^ "Convention 2008: Siblings of Barack and Michelle Obama to Speak Tonight". Reuters. August 25, 2008. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  15. ^ Dunham, S. Ann; Maya Soetoro-Ng (foreword) (2009). Alice G. Dewey; Nancy I. Cooper (eds.). Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-4687-6. Archived from the original on March 23, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "The Peace Studio, Co-Founded by Maya Soetoro, Calls for Artists to Create Works of Peace". May 5, 2020. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  17. ^ Whalen, Andrew (September 20, 2020). "Barack Obama's sister's organization is honoring Yoko Ono—and artist-activists—with new Peace Award". Newsweek. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  18. ^ "About Us". Archived from the original on December 4, 2015. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
  19. ^ Obama's Sister Debuts as Campaigner –
  20. ^ Chun, Noelle (October 30, 2007). "Watch Out, Hillary! If You Think I'm All About the Politics of Hope, Wait 'Til You Meet My Half-Sister!". Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved October 30, 2007.
  21. ^ a b Solomon, Deborah (January 20, 2008). "All in the Family". New York Times.
  22. ^ "Pelosi, Michelle Obama to kick off Democratic convention". USA Today. McLean, VA: Gannett. August 12, 2008. ISSN 0734-7456. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  23. ^ "Asian Dispatchers from the 2008 DNC". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on August 27, 2008. Retrieved August 29, 2008.
  24. ^ "DNC: Remarks by Craig Robinson and Maya Soetoro-Ng". Bay News 9.
  25. ^ Nolan, Daniel (June 11, 2008). "Relative: Obama's got 'a good handle on Canada'". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
  26. ^ Closed access icon Nolan, Daniel (June 11, 2008). "Obama's Burlington connection". The Hamilton Spectator. (subscription required)
  27. ^ Misner, Jason (June 20, 2008). "Barack Obama was here". Burlington Post. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
  28. ^ Cooper, Tom (January 20, 2009). "Keep watch for Obama". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  29. ^ a b Fornek, Scott (September 9, 2007). "He helped me find my voice". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009.
  30. ^ Green, Stephanie; Glover, Elizabeth (August 10, 2009). "Sister and niece act". The Washington Times. Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  31. ^ Goodman, Ellen (January 25, 2008). "Transcending race and identity". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 31, 2009.

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