“Gosh, he’s not half as impressive as his brother!” was what I said to myself when I first tried listening to Mark Obama Ndesanjo: half brother of U.S. President Barack Obama.
But I was even more disappointed as the interview went on. Ndesandjo literally didn’t answer any of the questions Larry King asked him. Instead, he asked to be permitted to address certain issues first; issues I thought he failed to make any real meaning of. This went on and on in the twenty minute program, and at a point, I realized the interviewer’s frustration as he tried virtually without success, to get the interviewee on message. Out of embarrassment, I pressed the mute button on my television’s remote control. I couldn’t listen anymore. Yes, it was that serious!
The first forty minutes of the program was very interesting. The topic for discussion was domestic abuse. Rihanna and Chris Brown were the main subjects for the discussion – following the singer’s recent appearance on ABC 2020, where she opened up to Diane Sawyer on her troubled relationship with Brown. It had four great panelists – two alleged victims of domestic abuse – including Robin Givens: ex wife of former heavy weight champion Mike Tyson and “So You Think You Can Dance” judge – Mary Murphy. Also on the panel was Denise Brown – sister of Nicole Brown Simpson – late wife of O. J. Simpson. Denise is the co-founder and president of the Nicole Brown Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization against domestic violence, established in memory of her slain sister, Nicole.
But the last twenty minutes, which was reserved for the much publicized appearance of President Obama’s brother, became the most boring, if not fruitless part of the program. Mark has written a new novel – a semi-autobiography, titled: From Nairobi to Schenzhen. In this novel, he talks about the domestic abuse he and his mother underwent in the hands of he and President Obama’s late father – growing up in Kenya. That was what Larry King wanted to talk about, but what came out of Mark was a very scattered, unfocused response to virtually every question asked him on the subject. I thought at a point that he seemed too careful of his choice of words, so they don’t come back to haunt him in the face of the media. It also appeared as though he wanted to make sure he didn’t say anything about their father that could be used against his brother the president. At one point, when I still had the television on mute, I saw him wiping off what seemed to be tears from his face. I turned the volume back on and heard him still struggling to put his words together; but he managed to say something about hearing his mother cry for help in the middle of the night when his father would beat her. This made me think his demeanor on Larry King might be due to emotional upset.
Mark is the other half brother of President Obama, whose mother – also a white American – the senior Obama met after he separated from Barack’s mother. He married and returned with her to Kenya, where Mark was born. His mother later divorced his father and married a Tanzanian whose last name she gave to her two Obama children: Mark and his Brother David who later died of a motorcycle accident in Kenya. A graduate of Stanford, Emory, and Brown Universities, Mark relocated from the U.S. to Schezhen – China, where he has been based for the past seven years. He is a physicist, a writer, a calligrapher, a business owner and consultant. Mark is also a pianist who teaches orphans how to play the piano and plays it himself to raise funds for them. He is said to have lived a very low-key life. His brother’s run for, and election to the presidency of the United States of America however brought a lot of ‘unwanted’ attention to him – people close to him have said. But now, he has decided to come out of his shell. Mark has admitted that, events following his brother’s election have encouraged him to embrace his own history and make the best of what lies ahead.
When the Larry King interview was over, I sat back in my couch thinking how bad a speaker he was – compared to his brother. That was when it all started coming back to me from a different perspective. If Mark wasn’t President Obama’s brother, would I have held him to such high standards? Answer: I probably would have changed the channel within the first minute and not bother to pay any attention to him. After all, I had done the same to no other person than Barack Obama when he was still evolving into the phenomenon that he has become today. Even while he continued to deliver the great speeches, candidate Obama’s interviews weren’t the best. Many a times, during such interviews – even in debates – I pressed the mute button on him. But unlike Mark, I thought Barack stayed on message, even during those slow and boring performances.
At the end of the day, the most important question I asked myself was: what if Mark just isn’t a great speaker but a good performer? After all, great speaking does not equal great doings; a line that has often been used against President Obama. Maybe what I have to do is go grab a copy of Mark Obama Ndesandjo’s new book. But wait a minute! I already have read two of Barack’s books. Hopefully, that wouldn’t impair my judgment of his.