President Barack Obama greets embassy staff and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, July 25, 2015.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Speaking before an affectionate crowd Sunday in his father's homeland of Nairobi, Kenya, President Barack Obama reflected on his heritage before departing for Ethiopia during his historic trip to Africa, according to NBC News.

"I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya, and of course I'm the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States," he told the packed sports arena in Nairobi, the first time he referred to himself as such, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On his first trip to Nairobi, at age 27, he was trying to find his luggage at the airport when a woman saw his name and asked if he was related to Barack Obama, his father, whom she had known, the president recalled.

Advertisement

"That was the first time my name meant something and that it was recognized," the president said, the report says. Later, he met "brothers, aunts and uncles … saw the graves of my grandfather and father." Obama's father is buried in western Kenya.

He also discussed the importance of educating women and recognizing their place in society, the report says. "Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition—it's holding you back," he said, according to NBC. "Imagine if you have a team and you don't let half of the team play—that's stupid."

After his 45-minute speech, the barriers could hardly hold back the crowds, the report says.

On Saturday at the state dinner hosted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama also reflected on his heritage: "But what is true is, is that obviously there are emotions to a visit like this," he told the crowd. "Memories come rushing back. When I was in college and my father was here, I wrote him a letter telling him of my hope to visit. And he wrote me back, and he said, 'Dear Son, even if it is only for a few days, the important thing is that you know your people.' Now, he died in an accident before I was able to make that trip. But in fact, when I came, I did get to know them, the people of Kenya. And although once again I'm here only for a few days, I remain grateful for that relationship.

Advertisement

"I've seen the resolve and the determination to pull together, under a new constitution, as one people," he continued. "I've seen your dynamism, as you've built the largest economy in East Africa. And I've seen the resilience, as in the recent reopening of the Westgate Mall, which shows that the spirit of the Kenyan people cannot be broken."

He is scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia later Sunday. Crippled by famine in the 1980s, Ethiopia now has one of the fastest growth rates on the continent, notes the report.

Read more at NBC News and the Los Angeles Times