Here’s a story from Rosemarie Bernardo that did not make it into the print editions of the newspaper last week. Simply sharing a few more thoughts from Hawaii people who witnessed history.
WASHINGTON >> A new chapter for the nation began as President Obama dove headlong into his first 100 days in office, signing various executive orders within his first few days as commander-in-chief, a sign of more positive changes to come.
Many from Hawaii, still overwhelmed with excitement after witnessing a historic moment, are looking forward to the days ahead, optimistic that he will do all he can to better the country.
“I really believe in him and that he can turn our country around,” said Wendy Kusunoki, 25, of St. Louis Heights, who endured crushing crowds and standing in line for three hours in 20-degree temperatures to witness Obama’s presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol last week. “It’s a defining moment, not only to be the first African-American, he’s from Hawaii.
“It’s just amazing … somebody from Hawaii is in the White House.”
Others, such as Dr. Laurie Tom, took an almost 4 1/2 hour arduous journey to reach the Capitol. A half dozen Metro trains packed with people passed Tom as she attempted to leave Arlington, Va. She resorted to catching a train elsewhere and trekked for miles. She wound up reaching her seat in a ticketed area by the Capitol about 10 minutes before the ceremony began.
“It was tense and stressful,” she said recalling how she was filled with doubt of whether she would reach the Capitol in time.
She pressed on, determined to be there.
“I’m just really grateful that I was there,” she added. “This is something that I will never forget in my lifetime.”
Many isle residents shared Tom’s sentiment, while his inauguration was preceded by festivities that included a star-studded opening ceremony at the National Mall as well as balls and galas, Obama reminded people in his inaugural speech that struggles are ahead and that everybody needs to work together toward a better nation.
While elated, some remain in disbelief that their best efforts in Obama’s presidential campaign ended with success.
“About every 20 minutes I feel like we have to pinch ourselves and to remember how far we’ve all come from the draft Obama effort to the Hawaii caucuses, at the convention, the election and through to the swearing-in,” said Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz. “Hawaii played a really important role both in shaping the president’s view and values and also in helping him to win.”
Many attributed Obama’s even-keeled manner to his years reared in Hawaii, a multicultural society where he was born and raised. The president also spent several years in Indonesia as a child before returning to Hawaii to attend Punahou School, which many say helped him become aware of the hardships people face in other countries where freedom is limited and people’s lives are dictated by the government.
His ethnic makeup, an African-American father from Kenya and a Caucasian mother from Kansas, help shaped his views of the world at an early age. His political career sprouted in Chicago where he met his wife, Michelle, and started a family, daughters Malia and Sasha, who also played an integral role in shaping his world view.
All elements, supporters in Hawaii and abroad say, cultivated Obama toward his pathway to the presidency and to make effective changes for the nation.