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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 15, 2008

COMMENTARY
Obama will break through gridlock

By U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sen. Obama at a rally in Racine, Wis. He embodies the message of Hawai'i to the world: Our diversity defines us rather than divides us.

MARK HERTZBERG | Journal Times via AP

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I first met Sen. Barack Obama's father at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa campus soon after my arrival there following statehood in 1959. Barack Sr. had just arrived from a newly independent nation Kenya. Everyone was drawn to his dynamic, energetic manner. His intellect was as brilliant as his smile; his personality was every bit as magnetic and charismatic as is his son's.

Shortly thereafter, Sen. Obama's mother appeared, scarcely 18, quiet yet intense in her demeanor, outwardly calm but possessed of an adventurous spirit and openness of heart toward everyone. They met and married, and in time, little Barry, as we knew him then, was born, perhaps destined to become president of the United States.

Barack Obama's story could not have started anywhere else in the world but Hawai'i. The values of the Sen. Obama we consider for the presidency this coming Tuesday are grounded in the aloha spirit. The foundation of his character was shaped by Hawai'i's multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society informed by the meaning of aloha. Above all, Sen. Obama embodies the message of Hawai'i to the world: Our diversity defines us rather than divides us.

That message is electrifying voters all across the nation. It is a message of unity, hope, optimism and promise. It accounts for the tidal wave of support Sen. Obama is building, which I trust will crest in Hawai'i.

He is galvanizing the Democratic Party base and growing the vote as well independents, disillusioned Republicans, disaffected and troubled Americans everywhere are filled with a renewed sense of possibility in America's future.

His nomination will be the antidote to the political poison now strangling the nation. It will bring the fresh air of change the country so desperately needs.

The signature "issue" in opposition to his nomination is the notion of his experience. But America's experience over the past two administrations has been that of polarization and gridlock intractable and relentless. No other candidate in either party offers a way out of this division. The negatives are hard-wired.

Barack Obama's nomination will break through the polarization and gridlock. It will be unifying and inspirational. A rush of positive energy will sweep the nation. The direction of the nation will change; a page of history will turn toward a renewed vision of the best the United States has to offer the world.

Barack Obama's election as president will instantly alter the picture the world has of the United States. People will cheer the dawning of a new day in our relations with the community of nations. His election will signal a new readiness for dialogue and openness, rather than threatening the world from behind a curtain of fear.

Hawai'i has before it an incredible opportunity. A son of Hawai'i is on the brink of becoming president of the United States. Let us seize this moment, perhaps never to appear again in our time. Let us stand with our brother, Barack Obama.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is Hawai'i's honorary chair for the Barack Obama campaign. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.