The Marriage of Obama's Parents: 'In Name Only'?

Barack Obama's parents were "married in name only," according to David Maraniss's 2012 Barack Obama: The Story.  But since definitions of an "in name only" marriage vary, such as "a marriage of convenience" or "a sexless marriage," and Maraniss failed to explain his claim, it is unclear what he was implying.  Therefore, Obama's oft-told nativity story must be searched for the full implications of Obama's parents' "in name only" marriage.

According to Dreams from My Father, the official Obama nativity story began in the fall of 1960, when Ann Dunham met Obama Sr. "in a Russian language course" at the University of Hawaii (UH).  Yet Ann's full UH transcript hasn't been released, and Obama Sr.'s UH transcript mysteriously went "missing" shortly after being viewed by Obama Sr. biographer Sally Jacobs.  So it will never be known if, in fact, Ann and Obama Sr. were in the same Russian class, as Dreams claims.

Whether or not Ann and Obama Sr. were in the same Russia class, a letter from the University of Hawaii's Stuart Lau to WND apparently confirms that Ann attended UH in the fall of 1960.  However, Lau's letter, as does a lengthy 2008 Washington Post article by Maraniss, claims that Ann graduated with a BA in mathematics, which is in contrast to UH claiming that Ann majored in anthropology.  Therefore, we have to ask just how credible are the accounts of Lau and Maraniss.

Whatever Ann majored in, Ann's University of Washington (UW) transcript shows eight credits transferring from UH in which she received a grade point average of 1.35.  Maraniss's 2012 book claims, based on "parts" of Ann's college transcripts, that she "appeared" to "ace" two classes for eight credits and "dropped three" classes.  It is unclear how one "appears" to ace classes.

No matter how Ann's grade point average of 1.35 was calculated, Maraniss "calculated" in his 2012 book that Ann and Obama Sr. "were having sex, most likely at his apartment on 10th Avenue in Kaimuki[,]" "within weeks of the first day" of the "Russia" class.  Although not at "10th Avenue" as Maraniss claimed, the 1960-1961 Honolulu Polk directory does show Obama Sr. residing(r) at 625 11th Ave.

Based on a library date stamp of "Aug 29, 1961" in the 1960-1961 Honolulu Polk directory, it is estimated that names for the directory were collected late in 1960 or collected early in 1961.  So it does appear at least that Obama Sr. was living at the 11th Ave. address in the fall of 1960 and/or spring of 1961 – when Barack's "calculated" conception took place.

But Ann's daughter, Maya Soetoro, postulated "with a chuckle" in David Mendell's 2007 Obama biography From Promise to Power that her hapa-Kenyan brother "was conceived" in a "nondescript concrete dormitory building just inside the campus" in which Obama Sr. "had been living" "while he and Ann dated."  Since, in reality, Obama Sr.'s apparent 11th Avenue address in the fall of 1960 was not a dormitory "just inside the campus," but rather a house over 1.5 miles from campus, we have to ask if Maya was confused, purposefully deceitful, or a combination of both.

Notably, Obama Sr.'s 11th Avenue address listed in the 1960-1961 and 1961-1962 Honolulu Polk directories doesn't appear in any of Obama Sr.'s INS files, which listed four Honolulu addresses: 1810 University Ave., 2036 Round Top Terrace, 1704 Punahou St., and 1482 Alencastre St.  Therefore, the authenticity of Obama Sr.'s INS files – which sat in Sally Jacobs's desk for almost two years before being released to the public in 2011 – needs to be questioned.

In any event, Dreams claims that "how and when" Ann's and Obama Sr.'s "marriage occurred remains a bit murky," and according to Janny Scott's 2011 Obama biography A Singular Woman, "whatever happened happened fast" when Ann "dropped out of school" after the fall 1960 "semester ended[,] and [she] married [Obama Sr.] that winter so discreetly...that her son never unearthed a single trace of the event."

So when did Ann's and Obama Sr.'s "whatever happened happened fast" wedding happen?  For no apparent reason, confusion abounds among Obama's biographers over the wedding date:

1. Dreams claims that Ann and Obama Sr. were in married "in 1960"; similarly, Mendell's 2007 book claims that the couple were married "sometime in late 1960" when they "slipped off alone to the island of Maui"; and both Obamaland (2008) by Ron Jacobs (with contributor David Maraniss) and a 2007 Washington Post article claim that the two were married "late in 1960."

2. A 2007 Chicago Tribune article vaguely claims that Ann and Obama Sr. were married "six months before" Barack's birth on Aug 4, 1961 -- or, in other words, sometime in early 1961.

3. An April 2008 Time article by Amanda Ripley, as does Maraniss's August 2008 article, gives a specific date of February 2, 1961 for the wedding, apparently based on Ann's and Obama Sr.'s 1964 divorce records – mysteriously appearing on the web.  But since fake documents have been known to appear on the web, Obama's biographers, Ripley and Maraniss, might want to verify the 1964 divorce documents – especially since a Feb. 2, 1961 marriage date for "Ann and Obama Sr." wasn't reported in any Honolulu Advertiser or Honolulu Star-Bulletin marriage lists from February 1961.  Take the February 8, 1961 Star-Bulletin, which listed eighteen marriages from Feb. 3, Feb. 4, and Feb. 6, and no Feb. 2 marriages, and the February 7, 1961 Advertiser, which listed eleven marriages from Feb. 2 to 4, including two Feb. 2 marriages.

Furthermore, Dreams claims that there was "no record of a real wedding," with "no families" "in attendance," and Maraniss's 2008 article claimed that "no guests, not even family members, were there" at the wedding – even though Peter Firstbrook's 2011 Obama biography The Obamas claims that Stanley and Madelyn Dunham were in fact "present" at the wedding.  Anyhow, whoever was present at the "whatever happened happened fast" wedding, Ann's mother Madeline Dunham "insisted" in Mendell's 2007 book that Ann and Obama Sr. were, in fact, "legally married."

So when did Ann and Obama Sr. live together as a "married" couple after their "legal marriage" – whenever the date?  Dreams gave the impression (oddly, since, by all accounts, Obama Sr. left Hawaii in 1962) of the family living together for approximately two years, stating that Obama Sr. "left Hawaii back in 1963, when I was only two years old."  And two birth announcements found in the Honolulu newspapers from August 13-14, 1961 do give the appearance of Ann and Obama Sr. living together at 6085 Kalanianaole Hwy. – at the time of the Barack's birth.

However, the 1961-1962 Honolulu Polk directory shows the Dunham family (Stanley, Madelyn, and Ann Obama) residing at the 6085 Kalanianaole Hwy. address, while "Obama Barack H" resided separately at 625 11th Ave.

Since it is estimated from a library date stamp of "April 1962" in the 1961-1962 Honolulu Polk directory that the names were collected in the second half of 1961, or possibly collected early in 1962, and since Ann reportedly left Hawaii for Seattle in August 1961, it appears that Ann and Obama Sr. never lived together – not even for a day.  

Maraniss does concede in his 2012 Obama biography that “[Ann] and Obama and the infant never lived [at 6085 Kalanianaole].”  But Maraniss vaguely implied that Ann, Obama Sr., and baby Barack may have lived at "1482 Alencastre Street" – even though the Honolulu Polk directories listed Obama Sr. residing at 11th Ave.  By all appearances, Maraniss doesn't have a clue if, when, and where the Obama Sr. family ever lived together.

In Obama biographer Ripley's 2008 article, Obama claimed that he "never probed" his "mother about the details" of her marriage to Obama Sr. and "wondered" if "they decide[d] to get married because she was already pregnant[.] Or did he [Obama Sr.] propose to her in the traditional, formal way?"  Obama further opined, "I suppose, had she not passed away, I would have asked more."

Yes, Ann Dunham sadly "passed away" in November 1995, just a few months after Dreams was published and Obama began his political career.  Thanks to Obama's "biographers" and a grossly incompetent media, the full implications of Barack Obama's parents' "in name only" marriage will likely never be known.