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Hawaii residents attend gala, support Obama at inauguration

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 5:10 p.m. HST, Jan 19, 2013

WASHINGTON >> Hundreds of Hawaii residents gathered in the historic Hay-Adams hotel tonight to celebrate President Barack Obama’s inauguration — and support an effort to bring his presidential library to the islands.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation, three Hawaii mayors and other notables were at the inaugural gala, put on as a benefit for the Hawaii Presidential Center Initiative. The event raised about $50,000.

Movers and shakers at the party said they believed Hawaii has a fair shot of snagging the presidential library, which would be an economic boon for the islands and would carry hefty prestige.

Hawaii — Obama’s birthplace — is competing for the library with Chicago, where Obama began his political career.

University of Hawaii President MRC Greenwood told the crowd that UH, which is spearheading the effort, has been in talks with the Obama White House.

“I’m here to tell you we can do this,” Greenwood told attendees.

The event, which featured Hawaiian food and music, was the raucous wrap-up to a busy day for many Hawaii residents in the nation’s capital.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of residents picked up their tickets to Obama’s swearing-in ceremonies, and were taking in some sights.

Staff for Hawaii’s congressional delegation said Hawaii folks were coming in today in steady streams to pick up their free tickets to the swearing-in ceremonies. 

The turnout was much smaller than what was seen in 2009, when there were hours-long waits just to get through security at the Senate and House offices.

There was no security line to get into the Dirksen building, where U.S. Sen Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, has a temporary office. Staff laid out pastries and cookies for Hawaii residents dropping by to pick up tickets. 

Among those who came by was Gloria Borland, a documentary filmmaker who lives part-time in the islands. Borland and her daughter, Imiloa, attended the swearing-in ceremony in 2009, and plan to be in the crowd Monday.

Borland said she wanted to attend the inauguration to support the president. “It’s history for her,” she added, patting Imiloa’s shoulder.

Mun-Won Chang, of Ewa Beach, picked up tickets for her and her husband from the offices of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii. Chang also attended in 2009. 

“It’s a historic, important event,” she said, when asked why she wanted to see the president sworn into a second term.

She added that Obama’s re-election is a “confirmation from people that it wasn’t just a fluke, that he was meant to be here.”

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