President Barack Obama spoke to about 250 campaign donors at a brunch late this morning at the Aulani Disney Resort at Ko Olina.
"It is wonderful to be here, not just because the weather is perfect, but this has been a little trip down memory lane," he told attendees who paid at least $1,000 a person. He mentioned seeing several old classmates and one of his teachers from Punahou School, and noted that the family plans to be back for Christmas.
"It is great to be home — great to just feel that aloha spirit. 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 in time."
The crowd included U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Entertainment included Hawaii singer John Cruz, who also performed at one of Obama’s inauguration events in 2009.
The president spoke about several familiar campaign themes and of his accomplishments, including winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, repealing the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy for gay troops, and health care reform.
Regarding bailouts for the auto industry, he said, "We are now seeing fuel efficient cars rolling off the assembly line stamped with the three proud words: Made in America."
On the fight against al-Qaida, he said his administration has worked "smarter and more effectively on national security" and has "decimated" the terrorist network to weaker than its ever been before.
Obama mentioned his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, when he spoke on efforts to save medicare.
“I speak as somebody who it was only a couple of years ago when I was here watching my grandmother fade away. And she had had a successful career at Bank of Hawaii. She had the kind of retirement that a lot of people don’t have these days," Obama said. "But knowing that Medicare was there for her made all the difference in the world."
He talked of gridlock in Washington and he criticized congressional Republicans for working to defeat him.
"We’ve got so much more work to do. Everything we fought for in the last election is now at stake in the next election," he said. "When you’ve got the top Republican in the Senate 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.
"They might think it’s a smart political strategy, but it’s not a strategy to make America stonger."
He recalled words from his inauguration: "I said real change — big change — is hard. It takes time, It takes more than a single term. It takes more than a single president."
He ended his talk at 11:37 a.m. to a standing ovation and a singular chant at back of the room calling for "four more years."
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 today’s event were Hawaii first lady Nancie Caraway, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, Jennifer Sabas from U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye’s office, and Ko Olina master developer Jeff Stone, one of the event’s organizers. State Rep. K. Mark Takai and former Honolulu City Council Chairman Todd Apo, now the public affairs director for Aulani, were also among the attendees.
The event benefits the Obama Victory Fund, the joint committee for the DNC and the campaign.