POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 15, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 4:46 a.m. HST, Nov 15, 2011
Coming back to Hawaii was more than just a stop for high-level diplomacy for President Barack Obama.
"It is wonderful to be here, not just because the weather is perfect, but this has been a little trip down memory lane," Obama said Monday at a campaign fundraiser at the Disney Aulani Resort at Ko Olina. "I've got classmates who are here."
Then he called out one of his teachers from Punahou School, even though he stumbled over the time line. "I actually have Mr. (Bob) Torrey, my -- was it seventh-grade or eighth-grade teacher? He looks great."
The teacher corrected him: 10th grade.
"He looks exactly the same," Obama said. "I'm trying to figure out what he's eating."
After two days of high-level diplomacy at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Obama wrapped up his last full day in the islands with a light schedule that included the brunch fundraiser and a turn on the links at Mamala Bay Golf Course on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
First lady Michelle Obama appeared at a job fair for military service members and then left in the afternoon for Washington, D.C.
Obama is scheduled to leave early today. He will head to Australia to expand on talks that took place during the weekend with world leaders from the various Asia-Pacific nations.
He is scheduled to return to Washington on Nov. 20.
The fundraiser kicked off the day for Obama, giving him a chance to see old friends and even confirm news that he planned to be back in Hawaii, as usual, during the winter holiday season.
"It is great to be home, great to feel that aloha spirit," he said. "And Michelle and the girls will be back shortly for Christmas vacation, as we do every year. We'll see if Washington gets its business done so I can get here as well."
Speaking to a wildly supportive crowd, Obama touted his achievements in office while painting a picture of a rough road ahead.
"We've got so much more work to do," he said. "Everything we fought for in the last election is now at stake in the next election."
Reflecting on his first three years in office, Obama touted the work of his administration both at home and abroad, ticking off health care reform, increased fuel efficiency standards, equal pay for equal work for women, the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gays and the winding down of the war in Iraq as objectives that have been met.
He also countered statements made by GOP presidential contenders in recent debates that the Obama administration was wrong to end the practice of waterboarding.
"We've been working smarter and more effectively on national security, and that is why we have decimated al-Qaida. It's weaker than it's ever been before," he said. "And Osama bin Laden will never walk this earth again.
"But we've been able to do it while sticking to our values. I was asked (Sunday) at a press conference about waterboarding. We didn't need to resort to that in order to protect our homeland and protect the people we love."
He spoke of political gridlock in Washington and partisanship that has led people to lose faith in government.
"When you've got the top Republican in the Senate (Mitch McConnell of Kentucky) saying that his party's No. 1 priority ... is to try to defeat me, you've got a sense that things in Washington aren't really on the level," he said. "They might think it's a smart political strategy, but it's not a strategy to make America stronger."
He spoke for 26 minutes, ending at 11:37 a.m. to a standing ovation and one person chanting, "Four more years!" from the back of the room.
Obama last held a fundraiser in the islands during his presidential campaign in August 2008. The event at the Kahala Hotel & Resort raised $1.3 million.
Also attending Monday's event were Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii first lady Nancie Caraway, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, Jennifer Sabas from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye's office, and Ko Olina master developer Jeff Stone, one of the event's organizers.
State Rep. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City) and former Honolulu City Council Chairman Todd Apo, now the public affairs director for Aulani, were also among the attendees.
The event benefited the Obama Victory Fund, the joint committee for the Democratic National Committee and the campaign.
Hawaii News Now video: Obama wraps up APEC by touting progress and talking nuclear arms