Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Sister, other viewers here proud of keynote speaker

 •  Kerry's wife says he's 'first in the line of fire'
 •  Obama speech does Democrats proud
 •  Island attorney excited about being delegate

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

It was a little surreal at first for Honolulu resident Maya Soetoro to see her brother, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, take the stage at the Democratic National Convention yesterday.

In the boardroom of Punahou School, friends and faculty watch CNN's telecast of Barack Obama's keynote speech to the national convention. The Democratic rising star is a Punahou alumnus.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I've heard him speak eloquently and powerfully, just not in front of so many people," she said. "But it made sense to see him up there. He looked like he was supposed to be there."

Obama, who was born and raised primarily in Hawai'i, mentioned in his nationally televised speech that his maternal grandparents moved to Hawai'i to seek a better life. His black father from Kenya and his white mother met at the University of Hawai'i.

"We already left messages letting him know how proud we were," said Soetoro, who talks to Obama at least once a week. "We will definitely, when he has a breather, hear from him and how he feels things went."

Pride also abounded at the Punahou School boardroom, where several teachers and officials gathered to watch Obama, a 1979 Punahou graduate. Those who knew him were excited, though not surprised at his political success.

"Inspiring," said teacher Alan Lum, who also played alongside Obama on the school's basketball team and referred to him as "Barry."

"This is his coming-out party," Lum said. "In second grade, I teach my kids about Martin Luther King and there's a similar type of feel about how he spoke — chicken skin."

Obama's former dean, Paula Kurashige, said Obama's speech was inclusive and at times poignant.

"It brought tears to my eyes knowing that he came from here and his background and how well he's done for himself (and) for people around him," she said.

"I think his life is certainly dedicated to helping others."

Eric Kusunoki, Obama's homeroom teacher, was also impressed.

"He talked about where he came from and for him to be there now. That's the same thing I thought — he came from here and look where he is now," he said. "And I think that's great for him. This is America, land of opportunity. The guy from Beretania Street can end up talking on the national stage."