President Obama was born in Hawaii, something that under other circumstances would be considered a big deal for any state in the union. But President Obama is African American — Black — and Hawaii is very conservative, the hub of the remnants of the old Pearl Harbor military heritage. And apparently they don’t think too much of him.
By Ray Hanania
Former President Ronald Reagan was born in Dixon, Illinois. The two-story, white frame building at 816 S Hennepin Avenue has been turned into a museum.
The homes of other former presidents have also been turned into national heritage sites, often proudly showcased not only by the local communities, but also by the states where they are located.
Maybe it’s still too early, but I had thought that when I traveled to Oahu, Hawaii recently, I would see the same kind of pride in the fact that the only president to be born in that state is President Barack Obama.
But, Hawaii, which is sold as the “Aloha State” — the word “Aloha” means many things from hello, love, “no problem,” to even pride – has no “Aloha” for Obama.
Obama was born in a Honolulu hospital, Kapi’olani Hospital, on August 4, 1961, six months after his mother, Ann Dunham, married his father, Barack Obama, Sr. Both were students at the University of Hawaii. Obama’s father was a foreign student from Kenya on a scholarship.
The couple lived at 6085 Kalanianaole Hwy, which is just 30 minutes east of Honolulu’s famous Waikiki Beach off the main road, and only one block from the Paiko Lagoon, and the Pacific Ocean.
They divorced less than three years later, and Dunham, who was born in Kansas, traveled with her parents living in four states. His mother remarried an Indonesian student at U of H, and they briefly traveled together and lived in Jakarta in 1967.
Obama returned to Hawaii in 1971, and lived with his mother’s parents, and the nation’s 44th President, spent 5th grade as a elementary school student at the Punahou School, also in Honolulu.
For some reason, I thought maybe Hawaiian’s would be proud to have an American President born in their state.
But that’s clearly not the case. Obama could also claimed to have lived in Kansas, Illinois and even New York, but his first home should be recognized.
Obama, the first African American to hold the country’s highest office, comes from a race that probably more closely identifies with the native Hawaiians, many of whom still hold a grudge against the White settlers who basically stole their heritage, destroyed their royalty and took most of their lands.
The state’s major newspaper, the Honolulu Advertiser, noted Obama’s birth in 1961 and cited his home address. But the property has no historical markings, and is surrounded by a six-foot tall white cinder block wall, short driveway, a one-car garage and a black gate.
If it were my home, I’d have the President’s Picture on a billboard above.
Zillow, the online real estate company, values the property today at more than $1 million. But possibly much of the value came after the 1960s and Honolulu’s wealth spread along its coastline.
Despite the clear and disrespectful snub, Obama vacations on Oahu’s north coast, in a large cove on the north end of Kailua Bay, leasing a property near the ocean-front villa of his rock-star friend, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.
There’s no doubt Hawaii has become a haven for hardcore conservatives, which is too bad. That’s not good for the culture of Native Hawaiians which continues to struggle to be identified.
Hawaii’s population has very few African Americans. It’s mostly White, Native Hawaiian but, surprisingly, majority Japanese. That’s an irony that makes me smile.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)