Hawaii Shows In Obama’s Words

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - December 27, 2006
| Del.icio.us

All eyes were on Hawaii this last month of 2006. Distance runners from Japan to Ethiopia to Russia scanned the results of America’s third largest marathon. Football fans stood slack-jawed at the stats of University of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan. Golf enthusiasts marveled at a young Michelle Wie’s decision to attend college rather than hit the professional golf tour full time.

But the attention of thirsty Democrats and the national media went to a tall, skinny, lop-eared hapa-haole from Hawaii via Illinois who just may be the most exciting figure on the American political landscape.

Barack Obama was in the Islands for the holidays, doing what so many others Americans were doing during this most family-centered season of the year: visiting relatives.

The national media wasn’t interested in what was under the Obama Christmas tree. They wanted to know whether the 45-year-old, first-term Illinois senator intended to run for the presidency.

It does seem premature, does-n’t it? Obama was just sworn in as a United States senator in 2005.

What would make anyone think Obama qualified for the presidency? First and foremost, a speech delivered at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2004:

“The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.

“We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

“There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

That’s powerful oratory, par-

ticularly in the age of political bomb-throwing we’ve known in this country for the past quarter century. An unabashed appeal to national unity, to the idea that we are indeed “one people,” “one nation,” is something an extraordinary number of people want to hear.

Then there’s the man himself. Unlike so many who seek high political office, Obama seems extraordinarily comfortable in his own skin.

I would ascribe that comfort, in part, to his growing up in Hawaii, the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother. Through his most formative years, Obama lived in an Island society in which no single ethnic group ran rough-shod over the others, and in which inter-racial marriage was fast becoming the norm.

“That my father looked nothing like the people around me - that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk - barely registered in my mind,” Obama has written.

Sadly, it would have in much of the country, but the diversity of Hawaii - of the people who come here to live and study - allows young people of any ethnic background to dream. They are not beaten at birth.

But does Obama have a resume sufficient for the presidency?

A valid question. Were he to win the presidency in 2008, Obama would do so on the basis of only four years in national politics, two of which would largely be spent running for president - add eight years in the Illinois state Senate, and that’s it.

Not much to brag about.

But come to think of it, generations of presidential scholars have been unanimous in their selection of another Illinois politician with even less national political experience: one who had spent only two years in the United States House of Representatives - a dozen years before his election to the presidency, and a decade in the Illinois state Legislature.

Tall, skinny guy. Peculiar looking, like Obama. Could give a good speech, like Obama.

His name was Abraham Lincoln. He freed the slaves and saved the union.

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