I’ve not spent much time on the subject of Barack Obama in Hawaii, and that’s my loss. Because of the recent birther flurry over Mia Marie Pope’s interviews, claiming that she met Obama during two or three summers1 when she and her parents stayed in a hotel in Honolulu. She described Obama as a “pathological liar,” a homosexual and a coke head, I’ve spent some time looking back at Obama in Hawaii, and contrary to what Pastor Manning said, there is a wealth of information coming from Obama’s actual classmates.
One source is the excellent film, “Barack Obama Made in Hawaii.” Another is a book from 2008 titled, Our Friend Barry: Classmates’ Recollections of Barack Obama and Punahou School, edited by Obama classmate Constance F. Ramos. I started going through the book specifically to refute Mia Marie Pope, and I found plenty of source material for that. Clearly the President was known as Barry Obama and not Barry Soetoro as Pope claims. Pope also said that it was impossible to get in Punahou school unless you started there in kindergarten. Most of the classmates in the book started later.
But once I got past the debunking, there were some insights about Obama. Punahou was an elite school, and Obama rubbed shoulders with doctors’ kids and the children of bank presidents. But there were other kids from two-income families and some, like Obama on financial aid. The poorer kids were conscious of their clothes. Most people in Hawaii are mixed race and Obama did not grow up in the atmosphere of racial prejudice that he would have experienced had he been raised on the mainland. In Hawaii, the racial distinction was between Asian and non-Asian.
Some remembered Barry as “genuine and grounded in himself”–others that he was a leader. There’s a neat story about a tuna sandwich.
Somehow these recollections make everything so much more real and human. It’s nice.
1The exact time is fuzzy. Pope always says 1977, but sometimes she says she was aged 13-14 and sometimes 14-15.