A Chance Meeting, and Obama Remembers the Power of Affirmation


The card that President Barack Obama sent Ranjana Martinez to confirm the impact she had on his life.

By Ranjana Martinez

SAN ANTONIO: I recently had the pleasure of meeting Governor Bill Richardson at the Hillary Clinton for President Headquarters. He is a highly accomplished politician and should be considered for Vice President. He advised me to write this piece about my brief meeting with the young Barack Obama.

My husband was attending an Anesthesiology conference at Treasure Island, in the San Francisco Bay area, in the early 1980’s. Taking the advice of the hotel concierge, I walked to the Bay Bridge from where I could get a glimpse of Alcatraz. As I used the telescope to locate it, I heard some boys calling. I ignored them until they got loud. I turned to my right and saw a young African-American boy and his friend at the foot of the bridge.

When I asked if they called me, they said they had.   I decided not to ignore them and walked over to them, remembering the many times adults ignored the call of youngsters. I asked their names.

One was called Robert Titcomb who told me to call him Bobby. The African-American boy, dressed neatly in a safari suit, said his name was Barack Obama and I should call him Barry. He was happy when I told him that his first name meant “blessing.”  They were on a short vacation and lived in Hawaii. I noticed Barry seemed very sad when he spoke. I asked him why three times. He finally said he did not know what to do with his life after high school.  I wanted to uplift his spirit, fearing he might jump into the water and blurted, “Why don’t you become the President of the United States?”

He was startled and said he could not. I insisted that he could, as anyone in America could be whatever they wanted. They could do anything they wanted.  He looked better and both boys walked with me to see Alcatraz.

Later his Mom, Ann, came up and talked with me. I asked her why her son was sad. She said she keeps telling him to do something with his life. She thought I was crazy for suggesting that he become President of the U.S.  I told her, “Don’t say no to him.  He will not do it.”

As they were about to leave on foot to cross the bridge to the mainland, Barack said. “Wait, you said I can be President. Tell me how.”  I told him and his Mom to think out loud with me.  I said, “You should finish college, become a professor, then a Senator and then President. You also need to be a lawyer, otherwise they will chew you up.”  His Mom agreed. Before finally leaving he asked, “When can I run?” I told him in 25-28 years.

And he did just that! I am very proud of my Barry! He is a great President of the United States!

Ranjana Adhikari Martinez was born in Karnal, Harayna and grew up as an Indian Army officer’s daughter. After college in Chandigarh, she flew as an Air India hostess. She met Dr. Carlos Martinez, an Argentine Anesthesiologist in Singapore and the two were married in Mumbai. They have has a 23 year-old son who is a medical student. She lives in San Antonio and is a volunteer for the Democratic Party.