President Obama and Third Culture Kids

Bongo may be the most famous Third Culture Bear in the world, but certainly the most famous Third Culture Kid of our time is President Obama. As I mentioned in the episode, there are some fascinating articles about this. This opening line by John H. Richardson in a 2010 piece on Obama for Esquire sums it up perfectly: "America just doesn't understand President Obama." Richardson's piece does an excellent job of breaking down just what a TCK is, and why it is important, but here is the pertinent passage when considering Bongo:

People laugh at you for getting important social markers like dating rituals or slang wrong, and that's when you realize how deep culture really goes — because when people realize you don't share all their habits, they suspect you don't share their values either.

As Richardson says talking about President Obama, but it applies just as well here to poor Bongo: "Sound familiar?"

Another more recent piece (2017) by Ryu Spaeth, appropriately titled Barack Obama, Forever a Third-Culture Kid, sums up a part of the TCK experience in lovely terms, while also highlighting some more of the famous TCKs you may not have known:

This is the legacy of being a third-culture child, like a toll one pays for happiness. Yet the great irony of this life, one so improbable that it makes me laugh, is that of the very few public figures who share this condition—Uma Thurman, Timothy Geithner, Steve Kerr, Kobe Bryant—of the luminaries in this world who, just by existing, make me feel less alone and insubstantial, one of them is the leader of the free world.

If you are interested in the topic of third-culture kids, as I am, I'd recommend the book Richardson quotes extensively in his article: Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Ruth E. Van Renken, Michael Pollock, and David Pollock.

Third Culture Kids 3rd Edition: Growing up among worlds
By Ruth E. Van Reken, Michael V. Pollock, David C. Pollock