Obama receives rousing welcome in Hawaii

December 21, 2008

hawaiiKAILUA, Hawaii (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama received a rousing homecoming on Saturday when he and his family jetted to his birthplace of Hawaii for a 12-day vacation, his first visit since winning the U.S. presidential election in November.
Obama left behind Chicago’s slushy, snow-covered streets and semi-frozen Lake Michigan for the balmy tropical weather of Hawaii.
The president-elect was accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Malia and Sasha. Aides say they will be joined later on the holiday by close Chicago friends Valerie Jarrett, Martin Nesbitt, Eric Whitaker and their families.
Obama last visited Hawaii in October, making a 23-hour stopover in the midst of the election campaign to see his ailing grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham, 86, who did not live to see her grandson elected the United States’ first African American president. She died two days before the election.
Obama is due to attend a private memorial service for her sometime next week, an aide said.
People lined the streets and some motorists left their vehicles to wave, cheer and take photographs as Obama’s motorcade traveled from Honolulu airport to the upscale suburb of Kailua, where the president-elect is renting a house for the holidays.
In his memoir “Dreams From My Father”, Obama wrote evocatively about the islands where he was born and largely raised, calling it “this chain of emerald rock.”
“Even now, with the state’s population quadrupled, with Waikiki jammed wall-to-wall with fast-food emporiums and pornographic video stores and subdivisions marching relentlessly into every fold of green hill, I can retrace the first steps I took as a child and be stunned by the beauty of the islands,” he wrote.
With the president-elect still to appoint a new intelligence director and head of the CIA, it will not be all play during the family vacation. Aides said he would be working and receiving his daily intelligence briefing.
The holiday will not be interrupted, however, by the release of an internal report detailing contacts his aides had with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has been charged with trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat, among other alleged crimes.
An aide told journalists traveling with Obama that the president-elect did not plan to hold a news conference to release the report, which the aide said could be expected before Christmas Day.

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