“What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii.” President Barack Obama
There’s no place like home—even for the leader of the free world. And when President Barack Obama returns to his native Hawaii, it appears the Commander-in-Chief enjoys everything from the island’s legendary beaches, to golf, and authentic local dishes.
“The natural beauty of the islands and the aloha spirit of the people of Hawaii provide a wonderful backdrop every time President Obama comes home to relax, rejuvenate, and visit with his friends and family,” says John Monahan, President/ CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
While Monahan says the bureau doesn’t have “specific numbers at this time” to indicate the economic impact of Obama on tourism, he adds that Hawaii does receive “more national coverage from the Presidents’ visits.”
Indeed, America’s first Hawaiian-born President has been a boon to many Hawaiian businesses. Stores hawk Obama T-shirts, bobble-heads and other trinkets. Restaurants that have welcomed Obama proudly put up window signs. Meanwhile, several tour companies have added sites associated with Obama to their itineraries.
“I talk about how Hawaii helped shape him to become the man he is,” says Mitch Berger, a guide who runs the “Real Obama Tour,” a two-hour guided drive around Oahu. Berger takes visitors everywhere from the hospital where the President was born, to his former schools, to the apartment building in Honolulu where he grew up with his grandparents.
Berger says that family (called ohana in Hawaii) is an important part of the local culture, as is its acceptance of diversity and welcoming aloha spirit.
“Many years ago, JFK said that Hawaii is what the rest of America is striving to be,” says Berger, referring to the state’s multicultural population. “Being here in this beautiful place where all different ethnic backgrounds and cultures live happily together really was a major influence on President Obama. And we’re proud of that.”
President Obama has visited some of these sites during trips back home to Oahu; others are part of his overall experience growing up in Hawaii.
For more information on visiting Hawaii: www.gohawaii.com
(Additional images courtesy of Evie Moscato)