The complimentary breakfast at Prana Restaurant in SoMa provided an occasion to thank volunteers for their work.
Soetoro-Ng’s 30-minute speech confirmed Obama’s personal qualities, apparent even in his youth, which make him the ideal presidential candidate of a diverse nation.
“He recognizes, and this is most important, the importance of listening and learning,” Soetoro-Ng said. “I have so much love for him for that. The time has come for him to teach us how to do that a little better.”
Soetoro-Ng underlined the influence of women in Obama’s campaign and his life, explaining that he comes from a “family of strong women” and has a wife and two daughters himself. “The claim that he is not feminist is total folly.”
As is the case throughout the campaign, issues of diversity and inclusiveness weighed on the minds of some voters at the event. There is a sense that Obama’s image communicates America’s diversity to people at home and abroad, and also that Obama can identify with racial minorities.
“His father is black, his mother is white, his sister is half-Indonesian — it doesn’t get more American than that,” said event attendee Sharon Soong, who is white and whose children are hapa. “It’s not just peripheral. He acknowledges all of it.”
Like Obama, Soetoro-Ng is biracial, of white and Indonesian descent. Her husband is Chinese Canadian, and they have one daughter.
The senator himself was born and raised in Honolulu, one of the country’s most diverse metropolitan areas, and lived in Indonesia for four years in childhood.
“That he is from Hawai‘i, where there is a large Asian population, sends a good message about who is America,” Obama supporter Grande Lum said.
Soetoro-Ng said the campaign was stepping up outreach efforts to Asian American voters. “We’re reaching out to community leaders, artists and writers to work up grassroots support,” she said, adding that Obama is “grateful to Asia for providing such rich layers in his life and offering him many ways to see the world. In finding solutions, we have to consider a wide variety of options, including Asian sensibilities that haven’t been considered.”
One Asian American supporter at the event said she was moved by Obama’s March 18 speech in Philadelphia in which the senator acknowledged the problem of race in the country and articulated his worldview. “It resonated with me completely — the struggles I have with my identity and how it fits into the American identity,” Andrea Lum said.
“He doesn’t exclude anyone at all. He’s a big uniter. He’s a world leader,” event attendee Ann Kretzschmar said. Echoing one of Obama’s main points in his speech, Kretzschmar added, “There aren’t blue and red states; it’s the United States of America.