PBS’s ‘FRONTLINE’ interviewed former Barack Obama classmate, Kristen Caldwell. She grew up and attended Punahou School with “Barry” Obama. She recalls how as a young child, Obama alternatively told classmates he was an Indonesian prince or Kenyan royalty.
So what do we know about Obama and his background? He wasn’t rich. Would he have needed help? How did he fit into this —
Kristen Caldwell-My understanding is that Barry — and that’s what we called him, so I’m not meaning to be disrespectful, but I’m going likely to refer to him as Barry for the most part. My understanding is that Barry was on a scholarship. And a lot of times if you’re on scholarship you had to do some work at the school. You worked in the snack bar.
When I first met Barry, when he showed up I think it was the summer before fifth grade, he was hanging out at the tennis courts. And at the time that was the very Wimbledon-like, where everyone had to wear white clothes and white tennis shoes. Very careful about the soles of the shoes because you didn’t want to scuff up the courts, mark them up.
So yeah, I can picture him as this slightly — “chubby” is too strong, but rounded, short little guy, Barry Obama. And he told us that his father was an Indonesian king and that he was a prince, and after he finished school he was going to go back, and he would be a ruler in Indonesia. And I absolutely believed him.
I understand that he told his fifth-grade class that he was Kenyan royalty, but I never heard that story until years later. My sister and I remember very clearly that he was an Indonesian prince and that he would be going back there. So there was some reference to where he had come from, and the understanding was his family was there.
I didn’t know who he lived with at the time. I since know that it was his grandparents. I knew where he lived, because a lot of times if it rained, my dad would give him a ride home from the tennis courts, because we would hang out after school. In the summers we’d hang out at the tennis courts; after school we would hang out at the tennis courts. That’s what we did. And that’s what Barry did pretty much from fifth through eighth grade. And I think after he leaned up and grew and got into basketball, he shifted away from tennis.