As President Barack Obama crisscrosses the nation campaigning for re-election, there’s one city he’ll always hold a little nearer and dearer than the rest: his hometown of Honolulu.
Obama is the first U.S. president born in Hawaii. As far as presidential hometowns go, Honolulu is the most tropical and certainly among the most picturesque.
The early years
Obama’s Aug. 4, 1961, birth was announced several days later in both the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Both announcements list an address of 6085 Kalanianole Highway, Honolulu, HI 96821, his maternal grandparents’ home.
Soon after his birth, Obama and his mother moved to Seattle for a year while she attended classes at the University of Washington; they returned to Hawaii in early 1963. He moved several times during the next few years — most notably when his parents divorced in 1964. Young Obama attended kindergarten at Honolulu’s Noelani Elementary School in 1966–1967. In October 1967, Obama and his mother moved to Indonesia to live with his stepfather.
Obama only spent a portion of his childhood in Hawaii, but he’s been affected by its “aloha spirit,” a sort of live-and-let-live attitude. Obama’s friends say that spirit is evident in his personality.
“That’s Hawaii,” Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) told the Washington Post in 2009. “You take negative energy and you process it through you and it comes out as positive energy. … Every time Obama comes on television now, the collective blood pressure in the United States goes down 10 points. He cools the water …”
Or, as Obama’s wife, Michelle, has said: “You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii.”
A true melting pot
So, what is there to understand about this beautiful island state?
Hawaii was settled by Polynesians who later were joined by Asians and Anglos. It became the 50th state on Aug. 21, 1959. Today, Hawaii has a total population of just over 1.36 million. As the nation’s most ethnically diverse state, its racial breakdown is 38 percent Asian, 26 percent white, 10 percent Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 2 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic and 0.4 percent American Indian or Alaska Native. Nearly one-fourth of Hawaii residents are of mixed race.
A sunny business center
The Obama family at the Honolulu Zoo in 2010. Source: NYDailyNews.com
Honolulu sits on Oahu, the third largest and most populated of the six major Hawaiian islands. The city’s impressive skyline includes more than 470 high-rise office buildings, hotels and residences. Honolulu has an urban core population of 337,260; Honolulu County, which covers the entire island, has a population of 953,210.
Honolulu is home to a good number of community and private colleges. The University of Hawaii, with 20,000 students, is by far the largest of its institutes of higher education — it’s also where Obama’s parents met back in 1960.
The weather in Hawaii is consistent, with only minor changes in temperature throughout the year. There are really only two seasons in Hawaii: summer from May to October and winter from November to April. The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85 degrees, while the average daytime winter temperature is 78 degrees.
Paradise is pricey
The city’s balmy weather, hula dancers and palm trees are undoubtedly attractive, but if you want to buy your own piece of paradise, you better be prepared to pay up. Honolulu is one of the most expensive housing market in the nation. According to the Zillow Home Value Index, the median Honolulu home value is $499,300, and the median list price for a Honolulu home is $475,000. The national medians are $151,600 and $189,000, respectively.
The first lady, Sasha and Malia share the president’s affection for his home state and cherish their annual vacations to the 50th state.
In 2004, Obama told a Honolulu audience: “There is no doubt that the residue of Hawaii will always stay with me, and that it is a part of my core, and that what’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii.”