NAIROBI, Kenya -- President Obama spoke to thousands of Kenyans who packed a sports arena in Nairobi today, telling them his personal connection to his father’s homeland makes him want to help with their success but also urging the country to end corruption and the oppression of women.
“Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back,” he said. “These traditions may date back centuries. They have no place in the 21st century.”
Obama also praised the country for promoting democracy and innovation.
“I’m here as a friend who wants Kenya to succeed,” he said. “Now’s the time to do the hard work of living up to that inheritance of building a Kenya where the inherent dignity of every person is respected.”
"We are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight against terrorism for as long as it takes," he said.
The speech came at the end of his trip, the first to Kenya by a sitting president. Obama reflected on his first trip in 1988 when he traveled to the country to discover his roots as he felt “disconnected from half of my heritage.”
Recounting a story from his memoir “Dreams From My Father,” the president shared how he felt when an airline worker at the airport in Kenya's capital recognized his name.
“That was the first time that my name meant something,” he said.
The president said the Kenyan people made him feel at home on his fourth trip to the country but admitted it was very different from his first, during which the airline lost his luggage and his half-sister picked him up from the airport in a baby blue Volkswagen Beetle.