Nightly News   |  November 09, 2010

'Barry' Obama returns, briefly, to boyhood home

President Obama had a long-awaited homecoming in Jakarta on Tuesday, but the visit was cut short when conditions from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano threatened to worsen. NBC's Lee Cowan reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And there's more. There is the volcano that has forced President Obama to change his schedule during his economic trip to Asia . This was the day the president and first lady made their twice postponed, long awaited visit to Indonesia . The fourth most populous nation in the world. Today they were in the city of Jakarta , where a young Barack Obama spent four years before heading back to Hawaii for high school . Our own Lee Cowan is traveling with the president tonight and is with us from Jakarta . Hey, Lee , good evening.

LEE COWAN reporting: Well, Brian , the third time's a charm, apparently. As you said, the president has tried twice before to return here to his hometown of Indonesia . Both times, though, those trips were canceled. This time he did make it, but already the trip is being cut short. The president arrived to a steady downpour in Jakarta , but it was the other gray in the skies that was a bigger concern, volcanic ash. Mount Merapi , some 300 miles east of Jakarta , has been spewing engine-clogging debris for days. Fearing conditions may worsen, the White House announced Air Force One is getting out a few hours early.

President BARACK OBAMA: We are very invested in making this successful.

COWAN: Although shorter, the substance of his visit remains the same, billed as a chance for the president to highlight the tolerance and diversity of Indonesia , the world's largest Muslim majority country.

Pres. OBAMA: What we're trying to do is to make sure that we are building bridges and expanding our interactions with Muslim countries so that they're not solely focused on security issues.

COWAN: In just a few hours, Mr. Obama will visit South Asia 's largest mosque, and then give a speech at the University of Indonesia , where he's expected, in part, to reflect on growing up here as a boy.

Pres. OBAMA: It's wonderful to be here. Although I have to tell you that, you know, when you visit a place that you spent time in as a child, as president, it's a little disorienting.

COWAN: Known as "Barry" back then, he left Indonesia when he was just 10, after living there with his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham , who tonight received an award for her work promoting rural development in Indonesia .

Pres. OBAMA: I am proud and humbled to accept this award on behalf of my mother.

COWAN: His school is still here, as is his home, along with a few teachers and classmates we found flipping through old photos. You remember teaching him?

Unidentified Man: Yes.

COWAN: He was a chubbier Barack Obama back then, who was fond of sharing comic books.

Mr. RULLY DASAAD (Former Classmate): When I saw today the Air Force One landing and he came out, I say, 'There he is!'

COWAN: Happy.

Mr. DASAAD: Yes, we all happy.

COWAN: For many here, a brief visit is better than none at all. Now, Brian , from here it's off to Korea for the first of two economic summits, where, once again, the president will argue that investing in Asia will translate to more US jobs back home. Brian :

WILLIAMS: Lee Cowan traveling with the president. And on this trip, if it's Tuesday, it must be Jakarta . Lee , thanks. We'll see you tomorrow night.