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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why Hawai'i should support Obama run

By Brian Schatz and Chuck Freedman

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is being encouraged to run for president at draftobama.org.

BRIAN KERSEY | Associated Press

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On Dec. 13, a group of Hawai'i citizens launched a campaign to draft Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to run for president of the United States.

We are part of a national movement using a Web site, draftobama.org, to petition Senator Obama to run. We encourage everyone who would like to see this dynamic leader make a bid for the nation's highest office go to the Web site, read about the candidate and sign the petition.

From the standpoint of the Hawai'i steering committee, Senator Obama represents the best in all of us. He wants to replace the fear that has overwhelmed this nation's political discourse with hope.

Think about it: Since Sept. 11, fear has dominated. Fear of terrorists, fear of other countries, fear of the other political party, fear of the future, fear of the government, fear of corporations. Senator Obama understands that although we live in a dangerous world, we must believe in the problem-solving power of American democracy again.

If you haven't listened to him speak yet, do it.

And for sure, it would be a very special point of pride for Barack Obama to be the first Hawai'i-born U.S. president. Imagine a president who empathizes with the plight of Native Hawaiians, and who understands our unique economic, environmental and cultural position in the world not because it has been explained to him, but because he grew up in it.

There's no doubt that his appreciation for diversity and his capacity to inspire hope and collective action were shaped in good measure right here, just as it has been for all of us.

The response so far to the Hawai'i Draft Obama campaign has been fantastic, drawing people from all walks of life and political persuasions heads of corporations, nonprofits, elected officials, former classmates of Obama's, liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. In fact, one of the most surprising phone calls we received to endorse Senator Obama was from former State Senate Republican Floor Leader Bob Hogue.

Some might ask: Is this a short-term political phenomenon? For the sake of the country, it can't be. Because Senator Obama's strength isn't just his personal biography or his ability to deliver powerful speeches it is in his desire and capacity to change the way we talk to each other, to improve the way we go about solving the nation's greatest challenges. He rejects slash-and-burn partisan negativity with a hopeful, practical governance style that is long overdue.

His approach will rebuild trust and credibility in America across cultures and continents. This is critical because complex global problems can be addressed only through international collaboration.

Senator Obama himself has suggested, it is time "to bring the country together around a pragmatic, common-sense agenda for change that probably has a generational element to it as well."

In the national debate before us, policy is important. We will hear from Democrat and Republican candidates alike where they stand on the issues, Barack Obama included. But in 2008, there is a need for an American president who can inspire the country and world. People expect the world's only super power to be a unique, strong, trustworthy leader.

That leader is Barack Obama.

Brian Schatz is a former state legislator and candidate for the U.S. Congress; Chuck Freedman served in the Cabinet of Gov. John Waihee. They are members of the Hawai'i Draft Obama for President steering committee.