Hawaii Tourism Association president Juergen Thomas Steinmetz is excited to have president Obama home in Hawaii. “The President could have selected anyplace on the globe for his vacation. The beautiful white sandy beaches of windward Oahu is President Obama’s favorite hideaway. This is a strong message for tourism to our Aloha State.”
President Barack Obama has arrived in Hawaii for a holiday vacation in the state where he lived as a child.
The president, first lady and their daughters arrived on the island of Oahu on Thursday afternoon for a more-than-weeklong vacation away from Washington. The Obamas have no public schedule and are expected to celebrate the holidays in private at a rented compound in the town of Kailua on the windward side of the Island of Oahu. (kai-loo-uh).
The Windward Oahu town of Kailua—population 36,513—is only a 30-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu, but it may as well be a world away. There are Oahu residents who go for years without making the drive over to this part of the island.
Kailua is first and foremost a beach community. In fact, the steady onshore trade winds makes Kailua Beach one of the world’s preeminent windsurfing destinations. Robbie Naish, regarded by most observers as the sport’s greatest champion, grew up at Kailua Beach.
In 1998, Kailua Beach Park was named “America’s Best Beach” by coastal expert Doctor Stephen Leatherman and then “retired” from subsequent consideration. As one Kailua resident noted in ALOHA Magazine, “If I feel stressed out, boom, in three minutes I can be at the beach and rigging up my sailboard. Even if you’re not at the beach, it’s never far away. It’s in the air, you can smell it.”
Kailua is a self-sufficient town with a strong sense of community. Christmas and Fourth of July parades are held here every year. There are Little League games, block parties and canoe paddling events. For its residents, Kailua represents the good life.
And to be truthful, Kailua residents are perfectly okay with that. They rather enjoy having a scenic slice of Hawaiian heaven all to themselves.
Obama left the White House earlier on Christmas Eve after the U.S. Senate passed heath care legislation. Obama leaves behind a Washington bitterly divided over his top domestic priority. The first family’s departure was delayed until senators took action.
Obama spent part of last December in Hawaii, where his mother and grandmother raised him.
The Obamas arrive at Hickam Air Force Base. They are scheduled to spend 11 days in the islands.
Beneath sunny skies, Air Force One landed at Hickam Air Force Base at 2:41 p.m. Obama, first lady Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, stepped off the plane about 17 minutes later into 80-degree weather — about 50 degrees warmer than the nation’s capital.
They were greeted by about 100 people, including invited Hickam personnel and their family, Gov. Linda Lingle, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, U.S. Reps. Mazie Hirono and Neil Abercrombie, Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Gen. Gary North, commander of Pacific Air Forces, and Col. Giovanni Tuck, commander of the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam.
Hannemann told reporters that the first words the president said off the plane were “Mele Kalikimaka.”
The first family spent a couple of minutes talking to the dignitaries and then the president and Michelle Obama walked over to the military personnel who had gathered to welcome them.
Obama, wearing dark slacks and a striped blue shirt and kika “cigar” lei, and Michelle, wearing a sleeveless blue dress and pikake lei, spent several more minutes posing for pictures, signing autographs and talking to the people in the crowd. At one point, Obama picked up and briefly held an infant, Parker Makiya-Torco, 11 months.
The presidential motorcade left Hickam just after 3:05 p.m., and arrived about 30 minutes later at the Kailua beachfront rental home where the first family and guests will spend the next 11 days.
Scores of people lined the side of the road as the motorcade made its way through the residential area. Some of sat in the grass, others stood on their fences to get a better look. Others flashed “shakas” as the black vehicles passed.
As the motorcade got to within a couple of blocks from the first family’s vacation home, neighbors gathered on their driveways and a cluster held a couple of homemade signs with the likes of “Welcome Obamas Merry Christmas” written on them.
The Web site Politico.com reported that the Obamas are accompanied by his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family, who moved to the Washington area from Honolulu earlier this year. Other friends who will be spending Christmas with the Obamas include Valerie Jarrett, Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Anita, Eric Whitaker and his wife, Cheryl, as well as the families of Obama’s childhood friends Mike Ramos and Greg Orme, according to Politico.com.
The president does not have any public events scheduled during the trip.
Spending the holidays in Hawaii has been an annual tradition for the Obama family.
Obama was born in Hawaii and spent much of his childhood in the islands. He is a 1979 graduate of Punahou School.
His last visit, a year ago, was weeks before his historic inauguration as the 44th president. But it also was a time of sadness, coming almost two months after the death of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise him. The Obamas attended a memorial service for Dunham and also scattered her ashes off the Lanai Lookout in East Oahu.
During the vacation, Obama worked out most mornings at the Semper Fit gym at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay and played golf at several area courses. He also visited with Marines and their families who were having their Christmas dinner at a base cafeteria.