Monday, October 5, 2015         

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Obama infuses speech in Washington with aloha spirit

The president shares his local roots during a dinner for Asians and Pacific Islanders

By Star-Advertiser staff


President Barack Obama spoke about growing up in Hawaii and his connection to Asians and Pacific Americans during a speech in Washington Tuesday night.

He also greeted “Hawaii Five-0” star Grace Park, who attended the dinner of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, a national group dedicated to promoting Asian and Pacific American participation and representation in community service and politics.

In his speech, the president mentioned the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink of Hawaii as a pioneer in politics, “who was not only the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress but the author of Title IX, which has changed the playing field for all our girls.”

He also praised Hawaii U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, whom he said “kept fighting for America.” He quipped that Inouye “was my senator most of my life.”

Also attending the dinner from Hawaii was the president’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and brother-in-law, Konrad Ng.

“When I think about Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, I think about my family — my sister, Maya, my brother-in-law, Konrad, who’s in the house somewhere … My nieces Suhaila and Savita. I think about all the folks I grew up with in Honolulu, as part of the Hawaiian ohana,” Obama said.

“Your heritage spans the world. But what unites everyone is that in all of your families you have stories of perseverance that are uniquely American. Some of you, those from Hawaii or the Pacific Islands, live where your family has lived for generations and your story is, in part, about keeping alive treasured native traditions. But for others, your story starts with ancestors who, at some point, left behind everything they knew to seek the promise of a new land.”

People from Hawaii in the audience were vocal, interrupting the president with applause, cheers and shouts of “aloha” whenever he mentioned the state.

“These Hawaiians here, what’s up with that?” the president said to more applause and shouts of “aloha.”


KOKUA LINE: June Watanabe is on vacation. Her column returns May 22.

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