President Obama was the main speaker. Part of the theme was taking charge of the future and the target was the youth.
But it was his sister, Auma Obama, who set the tone while introducing the US leader at the Kasarani gymnasium on Sunday.
Twenty-seven years ago, she recalled, she picked up Barack Obama from the airport in an old Volkswagen Beetle. Obama was coming to see his family in Kenya.
Obama, she recalled, had been a humble man who rode in an old car with her from the airport, even though it kept breaking down.
He slept in the camping bed in her flat and they ate githeri, omena, chapati and sukuma wiki, she told the audience.
She referred to him as “my brother, your brother and our son” who did not get lost despite staying in the US.
Auma said she had reservations about Obama running for president, “but he told me when he took up this job that he had read the job description very, very carefully”.
When President Obama arrived on Friday, Auma rode with him in the official US presidential limousine, popularly known as the Beast.
He was paying her back for the ride in the Beetle, she said.
“Twenty-seven years later, what did he do? He rode with me in the Beast, but do I say?” she joked.
The story was not about paying back rides. The moral was never to let current or past difficulties blur one’s future, she argued.
“Poverty is no excuse. That is what Barack Obama stands for… because you are the future.”
When President Obama rose to speak, he recalled how his bags were lost during his first visit.
The airline attendant, he recalled, looked up his name on his passport and asked if he was related to the Obama Senior, his father, who had been a government economist.
That was the time that my name became important to me, he said.