12 Juicy New Details About The Young Barack Obama

obama high school

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David Maraniss’ highly anticipated — and incredibly dense — biography of Barack Obama finally hit the shelves today, offering a fresh look into the early life and family history of the 44th president.Although Obama doesn’t make an appearance until the seventh chapter, Barack Obama: The Story does contain some pretty salacious stories about Obama’s childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, his college years in California and New York, and his early days as a community organiser on the South Side of Chicago. (Hint: There’s more nudity and pot-smoking than you’d expect.)

Many of the stories — including details about his New York girlfriends — have been previously reported. But we’ve dug up some other interesting intel about the President that might surprise you. 

Obama once broke another kid's arm. He also used to spy on his step-cousins while they were naked.

Those who knew Obama when he was a child in Indonesia remember him as a little troublemaker, who neighbours used to tease by calling him 'black berry, Black Barry.'

As the tallest and biggest boy in his class, he was known as a big eater who liked horseplay. He even accidentally broke the arm of one of his playmates while the two were riding on a bicycle.

His step-cousins in Indonesia also remember that he used to spy on them while they were naked.

'Barry loved to peek at us when bathing,' one of Obama's step-cousins, Noeke Soetoro, told Maraniss. 'There was a small window at my bathroom, and he climbed at the window, then teased me and my sister.'

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

Obama's stepfather had a ZOO in his backyard

Obama's stepfather Lolo Soetoro kept a zoo of wild animals in the backyard of his home in Jakarta, where Obama lived as a young boy.

Maraniss writes:

'The backyard was a sight to behold, Lolo's personal Indonesian zoo: chickens, cockatoos, snakes, turtles, two biawaks (reptiles that resemble miniature crocodiles) in a pond, and a small ape named Tata that he brought back from a mapping assignment with the army of Papua. As his neighbour Coenraad put it, 'Lolo was a weird adventurer who loved weird things.''

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

Even at age 8, the future president had big dreams

Maraniss includes this excerpt from a paper Obama wrote as a third-grader in Indonesia, as recounted by his teacher:

My name is Barry Soetoro.

I am a third-grade student at SD Asisi.

My mum is my idol.

My teacher is Ibu Fer. I have a lot of friends.

I live near the school. I usually walk to the school with my mum, then go home by myself.

Someday I want to be president. I love to visit all the places in Indonesia.

Done. The eeeeeeend.

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

As a student at Honolulu's elite Punahou High School, Obama was a member of the 'Choom Gang,' a group of boys who liked basketball and smoking pot (choom is a verb meaning 'to smoke marijuana').

Here are some of the 'chooming' fads attributed to the future president:

TA, or 'Total Absorption': In the Choom Gang, if you exhaled while smoking pot, instead of absorbing it completely in your lungs, the group punished you by skipping you on the next turn.

'Roof Hits': Otherwise known as 'hotboxing,' this is when you close the windows of a car while smoking pot inside.

Interceptions: When a joint was being passed around, Obama was known to steal it out of turn and yell 'Intercepted!'

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

Obama's wild antics as a teenager in Hawaii provided little indication of the future that lay ahead. According to Maraniss, Obama and his friends, the Choom Gang, spent most of their time playing basketball, smoking pot, drinking beer on the beach, and generally getting into trouble.

During one particularly eventful night, the Choom Gang held a drag race and the car Obama was in flipped, landing upside down. Nobody was seriously injured, and the boys broke down laughing while Obama repeatedly told the driver 'You can't drive for shit!'

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

And he thanked his drug dealer in his high school yearbook

Obama's tribute section in his senior year high school yearbook includes one line of gratitude: 'Thanks Tut, Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray for all the good times.'

Ray, according to Maraniss, was an older guy from whom Obama and other members of the Choom Gang purchased their pot.

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

Obama didn't take his future too seriously — he went to Occidental College because of a girl

According to Maraniss, Obama decided to attend Occidental College, in Southern California, largely because of a pretty girl from Los Angeles whom he had met while she was vacationing with her family in Honolulu.

He also got a scholarship to go there.

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

Mark Parsons, one of Obama's friends from Occidental, told Maraniss that Obama's affinity for hats was taken as a sign that he wanted to be a 'player.'

Parsons also noted that Obama had a 'peculiar smoking style, a little affectation. He turned his wrist up and cupped the cigarette between thumb and index finger. He smoked a cigarette the same way he smoked a joint.'

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

He also liked to chill out in a sarong

Maraniss includes this excerpt, from a postcard Obama sent his college friend Phil Boerner while vacationing in Jakarta:

'I'm sitting on the porch in my sarong, sipping strong coffee and drawing on a clove cigarette, watching the heavy dusk close over the paddy terraces of Java. Very kick back, so far away from the madness.'

Genevieve Cook, one of Obama's New York girlfriends, also remembers that Obama enjoyed lounging around his apartment 'drinking coffee and filling out the New York Times crossword puzzle, bare-chested, wearing a blue and white sarong.'

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

Obama had the moves like Jagger

Obama was reportedly known around his freshman dorm hall for his 'wicked' impression of Mick Jagger.

'He could do the walk, the strut, the face,' Maraniss writes, adding that Obama would also act out the famous scene of the Rolling Stones live onstage when violence broke out at their 1969 Altamont Speedway concert.

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

And he once hit on a girl by telling her the world would be better without clothes

Obama, stoned and drunk one night during his freshman year, started flirting with a girl that his friend had a crush on by starting 'a riff on nudity, offering his theory that the human race would be better if people did not wear clothes.'

According to the friend, the statement was 'made with the urgency of someone ready to strip then and there.' But although the girl was 'sympathetic' to Obama's theory, she wasn't ready to take off her clothes and broke off the conversation when Obama stopped talking.

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

As a young man living in New York -- a period of Obama's life that is often referred to as 'the lost years' -- Obama 'was struggling deeply within himself to attain his own racial identity, and Invisible Man became a prism of that reflection,' according to Mir Mahboob Mahmoud, a Pakistani student at Columbia University who was one of Obama's close acquaintances at the time.

Source: Barack Obama: The Story

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