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Obama's father talked of giving him up for adoption, says report

Barack Obama, Sr., with his son in the early 1970's. Family Photo

President Obama's father talked about giving his son up for adoption in 1961, just months before the future president was born, according to a report by the Boston Globe's Sally Jacobs.

Jacobs, whose book on Barack Obama, Sr. comes out next week, cites a memo by Honolulu administrator Lyle H. Dahling, who worked at the agency then known as the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. According to the memo, Obama, Sr. told him that Ann Dunham, Mr. Obama's mother, was "making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away."

"Subject got his USC wife 'Hapai' [Hawaiian for pregnant] and although they were married they do not live together and Miss Dunham is making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away," the memo says.

Nevertheless, there are no indications that Dunham, who died in 1995, ever discussed the matter with the Salvation Army - and her friends and family members doubt she ever had any intention of giving her son up for adoption.

"I never heard any talk of adoption whatsoever,'' Charles Payne, Dunham's uncle, told Jacobs. "Ann decided she had done this and this was her child and she was going to take care of him. From day one, as far as I could tell, she and Madelyn [Dunham] and Stanley [Dunham] were all completely committed to Barack."

Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary under Mr. Obama, said upon release of the memo that the president had neither been aware that his parents had discussed putting him up for adoption, nor that the INS memo existed at all. He said Mr. Obama was "absolutely convinced that [Dunham] did not" ever speak with the Salvation Army about an adoption.

"He was trying to convince immigration to let him stay," Gibbs said, of Obama, Sr. "So, part of his effort was to convince immigration that some of the responsibilities that he had he would not continue to have.''

Indeed, the elder Obama was apparently on precarious ground with the INS. A Kenyan citizen studying at the University of Hawaii at the time, he ran into repeated questioning about his family in Africa - which, unbeknownst to Dunham, included another current wife and two children - while seeking an extension of his stay in the U.S.

Dahling's memo noted, too, that Obama had previously been flagged for, and questioned about, "running around with several girls." He had reason to believe his immigration request might be negatively impacted by the fact of a newborn child.

"Noting that Obama appeared to have a wife in Kenya and another in Hawaii, Dahling raised the possibility in his memo of charging Obama with polygamy or bigamy in order to get a deportation order against him," the Globe reports. "In the end, he suggested they keep an eye on him."

Still, Jacobs writes that, due to the national attitude toward mixed-race marriages at the time, Obama Sr. may not have been the party to have felt pressure to consider adoption.

"Ann Dunham had good reason to consider surrendering her child," Jacobs writes. "At the time that she gave birth in 1961, Dunham was just 18 years old, and mixed-race marriage - while legal in Hawaii - was a felony in many of the 22 states in which it was banned. Even in Hawaii, the only state at the time with a nonwhite majority, blacks accounted for less than 1 percent of the population, and a black face drew curious stares on the streets of Honolulu."

Dunham's friends, however, maintain she had no plans whatsoever to give up her son.

"She was wildly in love with Barack Obama, her husband, and very excited about her future with him,'' Susan Botkin Blake, a friend of Dunham's, told Jacobs. "From my perspective, she had no equivocation about her baby in the slightest. She was thrilled with him.''

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