Adding to the recent speculation surrounding the most famous teenage Obama, Bwog writer Betsy Ladyzhets takes you back to the early 1990s when another, lesser-known Obama attended the best women’s college in New York City.

Malia Obama’s college decision is on everyone’s mind: her mind, her parents’ minds, and clearly the minds of the nation. Recent speculation suggests that she may have narrowed down her choice to either Barnard or NYU, and hundreds of Barnard girls have their fingers crossed that she’ll pick the land of the free love and home of Millie the dancing bear. Many speculators believe that Malia’s only family connection to Barnard is through her father (CC ’83), but that is not, in fact, the case.

Maya Soetoro-Ng, the younger half-sister of President Obama, attended Barnard as a member of the class of 1993, a time when the college faced the election of a different president (Bill Clinton), the rise of Nirvana, and some serious affinity to baggy sweaters. It may not have been New York City’s best era, but the environment at Barnard was still enough to help shape Soetoro-Ng into the woman she is today.

Maya Soetoro-Ng visited Teacher's College in April of 2011 to do a reading from her new children's book

Maya Soetoro-Ng visited Teacher’s College in April of 2011 to host a reading from her new children’s book

After graduation, Soetoro-Ng didn’t want to leave the city, so she attended NYU and received an M.A. in English and another in Secondary Language Studies. She later moved back to Hawaii to receive her doctorate in education. She worked as a history teacher for a few years, but after assisting with her half-brother’s campaign, Soetoro-Ng became a force for education activism, working to improve school systems around the world. She also published a children’s book called Ladder to the Moon that delivers a story about helping others and embracing diversity.

In his 2012 Commencement Address at Barnard, President Obama spoke very highly of his half-sister, naming her as one of the women “who shaped [his] life.” She is undoubtedly an alumna that Barnard can be proud of. If Malia chooses Barnard, she’ll join a legacy of strong women that includes her own aunt. All the more reason for her to come here, right?

Is that the entire class of 1993? via Barnard Digital Collections

 Maya Soetoro-Ng making the world a better place via Spec Archives