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APEC HAWAII SUMMIT: LEADERS' DINNER


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Obama evokes island spirit as model

By Dan Nakaso and B.J. Reyes

Star-Advertiser

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:41 p.m. HST, Nov 13, 2011


President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed the leaders and representatives from 20 other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations with a luau, hula and a Hawaiian proverb at the Hale Koa Hotel behind tight security that disrupted Saturday night traffic through Waikiki.

"Aloha," Obama said to his guests, who were gathered around four tables set under a tent. Obama went on to evoke Hawaiian themes of ohana and the islands' reputation as a melting pot as inspirations for the work of the APEC leaders this weekend.

With America's turn to host the annual APEC conference, Obama said he "could not imagine a more fitting place than my home state of Hawaii. Here we are literally in the center of the Pacific. Here we're reminded of the progress that's possible when people of different background and beliefs come together. This is the most diverse state in our nation, home to so many races and immigrants and Americans who trace their roots back to many of your countries. Hawaii's not perfect but I think Hawaii comes about as close as you'll come to a true melting pot of cultures. Here we're a single ‘ohana,' one family."

A tight security zone around the hotel included concrete barriers and steel fences cloaked to prevent anyone from looking in. Traffic will be disrupted again today when the APEC Leaders' Meeting moves across Oahu to the JW Marriott Hotel at Ko Olina.

After Saturday night's luau — and before kumu hula Manu Boyd and his hula halau entertained a larger, post-luau gathering — Obama implied that APEC leaders will not wear Hawaiian attire for what has become known as APEC's "silly shirt photo" that usually poses world leaders in attire representing the host country.

Two years ago in Singapore, when it was announced that Honolulu would host the 2011 APEC summit, Obama warned APEC leaders to prepare to wear aloha shirts and grass skirts. "I was persuaded to break tradition," Obama said Saturday night. "The one tradition we did not want to break was the tradition of the luau. … It's basically an excuse for a good party. … We have birthday luaus, graduation luaus and now we have APEC luaus."

Someone in the crowd then screamed and Obama joked, "See, somebody's ready to party already."

"We have music. We have song. We have celebration and we have hula dancing," Obama said. "Now, Michelle doesn't think I'm a very good dancer so I will not be performing," which drew laughter from the crowd.

The evening began with a greeting ceremony that started 30 minutes behind schedule, around 6:42 p.m., and lasted more than 50 minutes.

Representatives from each country were introduced individually, shook hands with the president and first lady, then posed for photos in front of a well-lighted banyan tree adorned with five APEC signs.

"Guys, how are you?" Obama said to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen.

Obama welcomed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev by clapping him on the back. Medvedev arrived at the luau alone, as did seven other APEC representatives.

Earlier in the day, Honolulu-born Obama said he felt "a little odd" wearing a business suit for the first time in Hawaii. But Obama and his male counterparts all wore dark business suits for Saturday night's dinner.

Michelle Obama wore an off-the-shoulder dress that appeared to be made from raw silk and had a bold splash of pink at the top.

At the start of the luau, Obama stood behind a lectern and talked about the lessons he had learned from his Hawaii upbringing, concepts he hoped will guide the work of APEC leaders.

"We are 21 leaders from across the Asia-Pacific who represent close to 3 billion people … men and women of every faith, color and creed," he said. "Whatever our differences, our citizens have sent us here with a common task: to bring our economies closer together, to cooperate, to create jobs and prosperity that our people deserve so they can provide for their families, so they can give their children a better future.

"And we've learned that we're more likely to realize our aspirations when we pursue them together," Obama said. "That's the spirit of Hawaii. It's what made me who I am. It's what shapes my interactions with all of you. And it's the spirit that I hope guides us in our work this weekend."

Obama then raised a glass of water and proposed a toast in Hawaiian.

"Aohe hana nui ke alu ia," he said. "That means, ‘No task is too big when done together by all,'" Obama said. "Cheers. Salud."


From media pool reports.

***

Full text of President Obama's remarks

Well, good evening, everyone. Please have a seat.

Aloha. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to Hawaii. And on behalf of the American people, welcome to the United States.

We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow, and we have a luau tonight, including hula dancing. So I want to be brief.

We are 21 leaders from across the Asia Pacific. We represent close to 3 billion people, from different continents and cultures; North, South, East and West; men and women of every faith, color and creed.

Yet whatever our differences, our citizens have sent us here with a common task: to bring our economies closer together, to cooperate, to create jobs and prosperity that our people deserve so that they can provide for their families, so that they can give their children a better future.

And so it was America's turn to host APEC, and I could not imagine a more fitting place than my home state of Hawaii. Here, we are literally in the center of the Pacific. Here, we're reminded of the progress that's possible when people of different backgrounds and beliefs come together. This is the most diverse state in our nation, home to so many races and immigrants and Americans who trace their roots back to many of your countries.

Hawaii is not perfect, but I think Hawaii comes about as close as you'll come to a true melting pot of cultures, where people live and work together in mutual trust and mutual respect.

Here, we're a single 'ohana -- one family. We remember that beneath the surface, behind all the different languages and some very long names, we all share the same hopes, the same struggles and the same aspirations. And we've learned that we're more likely to realize our aspirations when we pursue them together.

That's the spirit of Hawaii. It's what made me who I am. It's what shapes my interactions with all of you. And it's the spirit that I hope guides us in our work this weekend.

And so I'd like to propose a toast with the words of a traditional Hawaiian proverb: A'ohe hana nui ke alu 'ia. And that means, no task is too big when done together by all.

Cheers. Salud. Everybody enjoy the evening.

 






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Kauikalewa wrote:
Maika`i kela. `Ohana we are. E ola mau. Small. Intimate, personal, fabulous. Congratulations for bringing it home Hawai`i style.
on November 13,2011 | 04:35AM
Anonymous wrote:
Salud? Did the reporter hear that correctly? Could it have been "Salute", which is a more common saying in a toast. I believe Salud in Spanish means health, but why a toast in Spanish?
on November 13,2011 | 04:36AM
Lindall wrote:
President is AWESOME! Truly a hawaiian son.
on November 13,2011 | 04:57AM
gary360 wrote:
OMG, playing the role so you vote for him again. God help us.
on November 13,2011 | 07:05AM
Niele1 wrote:
if he were a truly Hawaiian son, why does he list chicago as his hometown? most locals that move to the mainland sitll consider hawaii home no matter where they move to.
on November 13,2011 | 12:34PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Well it is not like there is anyone else to vote for. This year's republican candidates are the worst they ever fielded. I especially liked Perry's brain freeze. Cain's 999 is also priceless. Obama may not be perfect but he is still heads and shoulders above any republican candidate running. So yes, I will be voting for him. I much prefer the Dow to be above 12000 than below 7000.
on November 13,2011 | 01:17PM
Anonymous wrote:
How can these leaders understand the culture of Hawaii, when they are barricaded in their hotels? What was the point of having APEC in Hawaii? Some of these leaders did not even bring their wives- it was only a business meeting to them. At least the wives could have gone shopping, and spent money in the stores.
on November 13,2011 | 05:59AM
Fred01 wrote:
Seriously, nobody else cares about the culture of Hawaii.
on November 13,2011 | 01:56PM
bwaikiki wrote:
"It's what made me who I am." - Don't blame that on Hawaii!
on November 13,2011 | 06:24AM
kainalu wrote:
Raised in Hawaii and proud of it - absolutely nothing wrong with that.
on November 13,2011 | 07:46AM
Kawipoo wrote:
Dillusional BS. Do you think these leaders care about Hawaii? It will always be viewed as a vacation spot with nice weather. Nothing more! It is not going to be the central business hub for the Pacific. When they meet the troll which was elected governor they will know Hawaii will never be anything more. Abercrombie is the right height however so they can use his head to sit their drinks.
on November 13,2011 | 08:48AM
HD36 wrote:
Here, in Hawaii, we have the highest cosst of living in any state. We have huge income disparities. We have the have's and the have nots. The have nots pay for the haves; cost of living allowance; cost of housing'; food allowance; and all the other government entitlements. Here in Hawaii the middle class is being squeezed in a vice to pay for entitled government workers and the bottom class' welfare programs. The only solace is the weather.
on November 13,2011 | 10:29AM
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