Alums define how Hawaiʻi shaped Obama

January 13th, 2009  |  by  |  Published in People  |  4 Comments

The Dream Begins book cover

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Michelle Obama commented, “You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawaiʻi.”

Two University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa alums took up the challenge, placing her quote on the cover of their book The Dream Begins (Watermark Publishing) and tackling the answer on 152 pages inside.

“I kept hearing about ‘Barry Obama,’ and I wanted to know more,” says Stu Glauberman (MA in Asian studies ’78). A journalist and author who has traveled widely and reported from Asia, Glauberman enlisted veteran Honolulu Advertiser political columnist Jerry Burris (BA in journalism ’69) to help set the stage.

Although Obama didn’t always speak of Hawaiʻi specifically on the campaign, the values he espoused—consensus, getting along, respecting for other people—are Hawaiʻi’s values, Glauberman says. “The book explains where these influences came from,” adds Burris.

“Before he was a politician in a well-tailored suit, he was a lanky kid with a trimmed Afro who loved to bodysurf and dreamed of moving to the mainland to be an NBA star,” the authors write.

Plenty of writers explore the Obama biography, of course. But Glauberman and Burris focus on his formative years in the context of Hawaiʻi at the time Obama’s boyhood—from the history of Punahou School to the societal influence of interracial marriage in a multicultural environment to the political impact of Hawaiʻi’s recent statehood.

Authors Stu Glauberman and Jerry Burris

Authors Stu Glauberman and Jerry Burris

Both authors have called Hawaiʻi home since arriving—like Obama’s mother and father—as UH college students.

“There is a lot about Hawaiʻi that goes with you wherever you go, and if you go on to be president of the United States, it goes with you to the White House,” Glauberman says.

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  1. Stu Glauberman says:

    January 15th, 2009at 12:55 pm(#)

    MA in Asian Studies

  2. Online Editor says:

    January 15th, 2009at 1:00 pm(#)

    apologies for the error, Stu, the article has been corrected.

  3. Kelly Conmey says:

    January 30th, 2009at 7:18 am(#)

    Aloha Stu,


    Where are you?


  4. Baban Sarbana says:

    August 31st, 2010at 5:41 am(#)

    Hi Mr. Stu Galuberman.. I’m from Indonesia… participant of Golden Ticket to USA: “Obama Here We Come”. Hopefuly I can meet you at Hawaii..

    Now.. i’m searching everything about Obama.. especially Hawaii..

    Thanks a lot.