POSTED: 6:58 a.m. HST, Nov 14, 2011
On a lush bluff overlooking palm-fringed Kaneohe Bay, first lady Michelle Obama welcomed the spouses of Pacific leaders to a luncheon at Kualoa Ranch today, showcasing Hawaii's natural beauty as well as its bounty.
She greeted each of the first ladies and one "first man," individually, reaching out with both hands to clasp theirs, embracing and posing for pictures before joining them under a white pavilion.
In opening remarks, Obama touched on her fondness for the islands and how it is the perfect spot for a gathering focused on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
"This state has a very special place in my heart," she told her guests. "As many of you know, my husband was born and raised here... Our family has the privilege of coming here, the burden," she added with a smile, "of coming back here every year and that's really one of the reasons why I married Barack."
"He has always talked about how growing up in this place has shaped his character. He is a very calm and focused individual...Hawaii is an incredibly diverse place, it's home to people of all different cultures... There is a special spirit here, a spirit of openness and tolerance."
"In many ways, Hawaii is really the perfect place for this APEC summit."
The first lady then introduced Chef Ed Kenney of Town restaurant and two youth from MA'O Organic Farms in Waianae, Kuuleilani Samson and Manny Miles, whom he said had harvested the produce featured on the menu. He said that 90 percent of the produce served had been grown at MA'O.
On the menu were: MA'O organic farm beets, arugula and Clementine with Naked Cow Dairy Feta & Pistachio. Fresh fish with limu vinaigrette, organic root vegetables, pa'i'ai, Meyer Lemon tart and fresh fruit from MA'O Organic Farms
Kenney said the fish had been caught the day before off Heeia, and since they didn't know what they would get, its name wasn't on the printed menu.
The Honolulu Boy Choir was set to entertain after the guests eat.
The scenery at the 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch is a magnet for filmmakers, and the lunch was served on a hillside at the base of the Paliku Cliffs, overlooking the sparkling bay and the distinctive emerald cone of Mokoli'i Island.
The family-owned cattle ranch, bought from King Kamehameha III in 1850, has managed to thrive by offering a range of outdoor recreation and cultural activities in tune with its environment. Visitors may tour an 800-year-old Hawaiian fishpond, ride horseback and take tours of movie sites including "Jurassic Park" and "Lost."
After the luncheon, the ranch will dedicate a garden of native and endemic Hawaiian trees to the first lady, in a ceremony closed to the press.
Asked what hosting the event meant to Kualoa Ranch, its president, John Morgan, told reporters:
"This is huge. This is really wonderful. This is a world stage. To be able to showcase Hawaii through Kualoa Ranch is mind-boggling, actually."
The spouses attending were:
Mr. Tim Mathieson, significant other of the Prime Minister of Australia
Mrs. Lauren Harper, spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada
Mrs. Selina Tsang, spouse of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong
Mrs. Kristiani Herawati, First Lady of Indonesia
Mrs. Kim Yoon-ok, First Lady of Republic of Korea
Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor, spouse of the Prime Minister of Malaysia
Ms. Lynda May Babao, spouse of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Mrs. Nadine Heredia, First Lady of Peru
Mrs. Fang-Yui Lien, spouse of the Representative of Chinese Taipei
Madam Mai Thi Hanh, First Lady of Vietnam