Barack Obama’s Hawaii

“You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii.” ~ Michelle Obama

Hawaii will always be home for President Barack Obama. There can be no doubt that growing up in this idyllic, multicultural setting was a major influence in shaping who Obama is today.

Kamaaina: Local at Heart
The Hawaiian word kamaaina means someone who is native born or who has lived in Hawaii for some time. When Barack Obama returns to Hawaii with his family, he comes as a kamaaina, a local who knows where to go, where to eat and what to do. Here are a few places President Obama has visited on his trips back to Oahu:

Pearl Harbor - Chief historian Daniel A. Martinez gave the Obama family a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial.

Hanauma Bay – Located on the southeast coast of Oahu, this Marine Life Conservation District is Oahu’s most popular snorkeling destination. This is also near Sandy Beach, one of President Obama’s favorite beaches growing up, as well as the Halona Blowhole, near the area where his mother’s ashes were scattered.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout – This scenic spot atop Windward Oahu’s peaks was the site of a fierce battle lead by King Kamehameha I.

Golf on Oahu – President Obama has played rounds at Olomana Golf Links and Royal Hawaiian Country Club.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl – One of the country’s most prominent national cemeteries for the armed forces. President Obama’s grandfather is buried here.

Plate lunch – Like most locals, President Obama frequents the restaurants of Kapahulu on the outskirts of Waikiki. He’s been known to get a local style plate lunch from the Rainbow Drive-In and the 24-hour Oahu mainstay, Zippy’s.

Shave Ice – On a recent visit, President Obama and his daughters cooled off with a shave ice, the local version of a snow cone, at Island Snow in Kailua. Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore is another famous shop and spots like Waiola Shave Ice in Kapahulu are popular with locals.

Spam musubi – During a recent holiday visit, President Obama reportedly bought two spam musubis while enjoying a day of golf at the Olomana Golf Links. A sure sign that President Obama is a true local, Spam musubi is a popular Hawaii snack consisting of a Japanese onigiri, or rice ball, with a slice of cooked spam on it and wrapped with nori, or dried seaweed.

Time: Home for the Holidays: Obama Tries to Escape in Hawaii
New York Times: The Hawaiian Plate Lunch
SF Gate: Where Would Obama eat?
USA Today: Eat at Obama's favorite Hawaii restaurants

Ohana: Barack Obama's Family
Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 at the Kapiolani Hospital for Women & Children in the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Honolulu is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population and it was here at the University of Hawaii that Barack’s father and mother, Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham, met.

Raised in Hawaii until he was six, Obama spent four years in Indonesia after his mother remarried. Obama returned to Hawaii at age ten to attend the prestigious Punahou School, where Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, and golf phenom Michelle Wie also attended. Far from a Presidential hopeful, Obama played on the state championship basketball team and dreamed of becoming a pro basketball player.

Obama lived with his maternal grandfather and grandmother, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, a few blocks from school in the neighborhood of Makiki, just ten minutes away from Waikiki. He spent his youth enjoying picnics at the scenic Puu Ualakaa State Park near his home and Kapiolani Park in Waikiki as well as body surfing at Sandy Beach on the eastern tip of Oahu. He even worked at a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream on South King Street that still exists today.

Obama continued on to Columbia and Harvard Law but made frequent visits back to see his ohana, or family, in Hawaii. His mother, who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Hawaii, died of cancer in 1995. Obama’s grandmother “Toot,” short for tutu (Hawaiian for grandmother), passed away in Hawaii just two days before Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States.

Aloha: The Spirit of Obama
Beyond Hawaii’s natural beauty, the islands are a place of incredible diversity. Dating back to plantation days, Hawaii has been home to a multicultural mix of people. It is this culture of acceptance and aloha that has had a profound affect on Barack Obama and will continue to influence him in the future.

“What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii.” ~ Barack Obama

Time: My Chance Encounter With Obama in Hawaii