"In 1959 my protestant family moved next door to a catholic family. They had a daughter my age. In 19 years, we spoke to each other perhaps seven times. If you didn't live then, you don't know how segregated our country was when the 'greatest generation' was running things. My parents' generation wouldn't have sent Barack Obama to the Senate. They wouldn't have permitted a gay pride parade. They sent the physically and mentally challenged to institutions, to grow up strangers to their families and dependents of the state. My generation was the first one to say that America belongs to all Americans. I'd call that quite an accomplishment, wouldn't you?" - Jean Martin, Pittsburgh
"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows slavishly the new[ones]." - Thoreau, Walden, Mass.
"The man who sticks to his plan will become what he used to want to be."
- James Richardson
Barack Obama grew up and went to school about two miles from my home. His mom was a University of Hawaii/Manoa alumna like me. If you are not from here, if you have not lived for years in this unique culture, then you don't really comprehend how very much it means to us to be "local."
It means growing up in a place with no racial majority. Your friends, neighbors and schoolmates (and often, family) are of many cultures, backgrounds, and colors - but they are just that: your neighbors, best friends, and schoolmates. You grow up accustomed to seeing many different models of how life can be lived, and seeing many different kinds of role models. But we all share something special: we are Hawaii people with all that it means. We came here, or our fore-bearers came here from somewhere else; and this includes the first voyaging Hawaiians. Hard work, cultural dislocation, finding ourselves in a new environment, and learning the humanity of those very different from ourselves, are the bedrock of our identity. We live amidst great beauty, but with limited space in which to "get away from each other." On an island you have to learn to share and get along. Just look at our food: it's of many roots and flavors - just like us.
It is in this "chop suey bowl" that Barack, or "Barry" as his friends called him, grew up with a smart, determined mid-west grandma and a large, outgoing WWII veteran grandpa. Oh yes, and they were white people. Barack has written two books about his life, and has lots of friends in Honolulu who kept in touch all these years. He has vacationed here, walking unmolested in Waikiki, every Summer for years. We feel enormous pride that 'one of us' is inspiring the whole nation and world. We recognize the values he embodies and speaks of. They are not rhetoric. We recognize the familiar values that we (mostly) live by in him. It puzzles us and pains us to hear newcomers to the national dialogue (or even old hands who should know better, republican Gov. Lingle!) ask: "Who is this guy? Where did he come from?" He came from us and we are faces of America too. He calls his grandma "Toot." Any local person recognizes (and uses) the Hawaiian word: "TuTu = grandmother." When he leans over and kisses a woman on the cheek, we don't see politics, we see the way we behave every day!
We are so proud when someone from our little, isolated island home brings something world-class to a larger stage. So don't wonder why Barack looks "different." Instead, recognize your own family saga. Come visit us and get to know our unique flavor of America. Your life will be richer. Spread the ALOHA! GO MAUI BOY SHANE VICTORINO & the PHILLIES!!