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Obama's Sister Maya Is Early Inaugural Star

Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack Obama's half-sister, speaks with churchgoers in Hawaii last June. (AP Photo/Ronen Zilberman)

It must be in the genes.

Barack Obama's half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng got the rock-star treatment --packed room, cellphone cameras hoisted above heads -- at the Asia Society's inaugural reception at the St. Regis Saturday, and she held the spotlight well. Steady gaze, calm resonant voice, nice way with a quip. ("Delighted to be in Washington, other than the cold: I'm a bird of the tropics.")

And soooo smooth: As the Hawaii-based teacher paid tribute to the Asia Society for helping her find grounding as an "untethered" grad student in NYC in the mid-'90s, a purring ring pulsed through the room.

"I think that's my phone," she said, totally unflustered. The delighted crowd urged her to take the call -- "Barack! Barack!" -- but of course she didn't.

We chased her down as she and film-scholar husband Konrad Ng were getting ushered out via the kitchen, rock-star style. Any truth to the rumor you're moving here? "I'm not sure," she said in those mellifluous tones. "It's a beautiful city. I'd love to spend more time here." They could run her for office.

The other big star of the night at a party that drew several members of Congress and a dozen ambassadors: Obama's pick for Secretary of Energy, Berkeley physicist Steven Chu. He couldn't talk, society chairman Richard Holbrooke explained, because "the lawyers told him not to."

Chu broke in. As secretary-designate, not yet a secretary, "I can't speak about policy, but I can tell a joke." So how about that time he called his mother, and said, "Mom, I got the Nobel Prize."

"She said, 'That's wonderful, Steven. When are you going to come see me?' "

Holbrooke interjected: "I didn't know you were Jewish."

Chu: "My mother called later and said, 'Steven, it's true! My neighbors told me it's true!' "

By The Reliable Source  |  January 18, 2009; 3:38 PM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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Does anyone have a picture of Maya at the Inauguration? Where did she sit?

I don't think she was identified on TV.

Posted by: patsyq | January 20, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

President Obama, kissed his daughters, wife and mother-in-law. Did he kiss his sister?

Posted by: bobbie13977 | January 20, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't the media identify President Obama's only sister from his mother's side and who lives in America. Michelle Obama's side of the family received all the media attention. Wasn't the sister allowed to sit on the platform with his brother President Obama? Who made the sitting arrangement?

Posted by: sueguha | January 20, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Maya sat behind Malia and Sasha. I dont recall if President Obama kissed his sister. I think it very sad that the media only focus's on the black side of President Obamas' family and forget that he is a bi-racial man. They totally and always disregard his actual blood relative and focus on his wife's family as if they are his blood and not his marital family. The media also told us about his half sister from Kenya and neglected to show his sister Maya, her husband and daughter. The only connection I saw was with his niece (Maya's daughter) while they were watching the parade.

Posted by: veestep | January 20, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

the next four years with obama as presindent is going ot be a sad time, if he does not figure out it was not all the black vote that put him in office. I am greatful that our govenment has a system of checks and balances. He will be forced to work for the good of all races and not for the black race he indicated in his acceptance speech.

Posted by: joycedblack | January 21, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad Maya was there. She is fully connected to Obama and he is very proud of her and all sides of his family. He, Michelle and their kids visit Maya all the time in Hawaii. The cameras don't focus on her because they like a simple story - black and white. But the history of America is as Obama celebrates a "patchwork" of peoples and cultures.

Posted by: Remone1 | January 21, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

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