LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Maya Soetoro-Ng may not be as famous as her big brother, former President Barack Obama, nor did she follow his path into politics.
But they do share a passion for serving others: Maya is an educator, author and an advocate for peace.
Spreading the message of peace was the reason Maya was in Southern California as the keynote speaker for a peace event honoring her friends, the parents of Justin Carr, who died suddenly of a heart condition while swimming at Harvard Westlake High School four years ago.
“Justin’s parents were introduced to me by a mutual friend, and they came to Hawaii and I found an instantaneous kinship,” said Maya. “I invited Darrell and Susan to speak at my nonprofit, and they moved many.”
Maya promotes her nonviolent message in Hawaii as director of the Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution and as co-founder of her nonprofit Ceeds of Peace organization.
“I taught high school for 15 years, the need to listen carefully and communicate nonviolently, they are things that we can in fact teach,” she said. “But we need to teach at a very young age.”
When asked about her brother, Maya says Obama is “at a whole ‘nother level.”
“I remember being in Chicago, being a teenager, and seeing my brother doing voter registration, community organizing on the south side,” she recalled. “That taught me a lot as a young person about the value of grassroots initiatives.”
Maya says despite his leaving office in January, Obama is staying busy.
“He’s doing all right. I think he’s doing some writing, reflection, reading, and we play online Scrabble still,” she said.
Although they had different fathers, their mother Ann Dunham was a motivating force in their lives.
“She allowed us to become intellectually and emotionally brave, so I think my brother became president was due to constant insistence that he could generally be anything that he wanted,” said Maya.
As for Maya, her mother’s life inspired in many ways including writing a book “Ladder To The Moon.”