President Obama told students at a town hall at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur that he regrets “not having spent more time with my mother,” in an emotional scene during his four-country tour through Asia.
“I realized that there was a stretch of time from when I was, let’s say 20 until I was 30 where I was so busy with my own life that I didn’t always reach out and communicate with her and ask her how she was doing and tell her about things,” Obama said. “You know, I was nice and I’d call and I’d write once in a while, but this goes to what I was saying earlier about what you remember in the end, I think, is the people you love.”Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, passed away in 1995 from uterine cancer, just weeks before her 53rd birthday. Four months earlier, Obama had published Dreams from My Father; a year later, he won his first election, the Illinois state Senate seat.
Dunham moved the family around the world while Obama was growing up, a stark contrast to the deep family roots he later built in Chicago with his own wife and children. She divorced Barack Obama Sr., married Lolo Soetoro, and moved the family from Hawaii to Indonesia when Obama was only six. That marriage ended in divorce.
Obama told the students in Kuala Lumpur that he regretted the space that grew between them as he sought independence.
“I realized that I didn’t every single day or at least more often, spend time with her or find out what she was thinking because she had been such an important part of my life,” Obama said.
“Now that’s natural as young people. You know, As you grow up you become independent. But for those of you who have not called their parents lately, I would just say that that is something that I regret.”