After a whirlwind visit to the Tokyo Olympics, U.S. first lady Jill Biden arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam early Saturday afternoon and will spend her brief time here encouraging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Executive One Foxtrot, as the first lady’s plane is known, landed at Hickam Field at around 12:45 p.m. Among those awaiting Biden’s arrival were Gov. David Ige and his wife, Dawn Amano-Ige; U.S. Rep. Ed Case and his wife, Audrey Nakamura; and commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. John C. Aquilino, and his wife, Laura.
The first lady, in a lilac-colored dress and white floral Dior shoes, was welcomed with fragrant lei. Observers noted that neither Biden nor those who greeted her were wearing face coverings, which are not required outdoors under Oahu’s COVID-19 rules.
“I’m really looking forward to being here in your beautiful state,” Biden remarked after mingling with the Hawaii contingent. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
With no official activities planned for the rest of the day, she left Hickam Field at 1 p.m. in a motorcade en route to the Presidential Cottage at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.
Biden is scheduled to visit a vaccination clinic at Waipahu High School at 1 p.m. today where she will “encourage the community to get vaccinated,” her office said. She will then join military families for a barbecue at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam before departing for Washington, D.C., at about 4 p.m.
After Biden left the airfield Saturday, Ige told reporters that her presence and encouragement will help increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in Hawaii, where infections have been surging and vaccinations seemed to have stalled at below 60% of the total population.
Hawaii health officials reported 258 new coronavirus cases Saturday, the 10th straight day of triple-digit infections.
“Adding her voice to all of the local voices, I think, it just adds one more powerful message to get vaccinated,” Ige said.
The governor also said he was excited about having the first lady in Hawaii and that the Biden administration has “brought so much energy to the presidency.”
“They are so aligned with our core values and the values in Hawaii,” he said.
Hawaii’s first lady, Dawn Ige, and Jill Biden both have had long careers in education, and Ige said she was glad to see an educator in the White House.
“I’m personally so grateful that she’s an educator and that she’ll be going to Waipahu High School,” she said.
Biden didn’t arrive in Hawaii empty-handed. The first lady brought a little gift containing cookies for Maggie Inouye, 11, granddaughter of the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who was a close friend and colleague of Biden’s husband, President Joe Biden.
Maggie was there to greet the first lady with her parents, Ken and Jessica Inouye.
Before leaving Japan, Jill Biden dedicated a room in the U.S. ambassador’s residence to the elder Inouye and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye. The senator died in 2012, and his wife died last year.
Ken Inouye said his father would have been “very humbled” by the gesture.
“He would actually see it not so much as, you know, an honor to him, but a vindication and recognition of his opinion and feeling … that the relationship between Japan and America is very important,” Inouye said.
He said his father also worked to ease lingering anti-Japanese sentiment in the U.S. in the wake of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, when Japanese Americans found their loyalties questioned and many were sent to internment camps.
During the war, the late senator served in the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team comprising Japanese American soldiers. He lost his right arm in combat and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and other military honors.
“He always felt it was very important that we as Americans work to bring into harmony the two sides of our heritage — our loyalty to the country as well as the heritage of the place of our ancestors,” Ken Inouye said.
He also said the first lady’s Hawaii visit was about more than honoring his father’s legacy.
“This day was less about me than it is about Maggie, because I always try to make it such that she has opportunities to meet as many positive and strong female role models as possible,” he said.
This story was compiled by Star-Advertiser staff along with reports from Nikki Schwab, senior U.S. political reporter for the Daily Mail, who is a pool reporter for first lady Jill Biden’s Japan trip.