The University of Hawaiʻi is leading the charge for a Barack Obama Presidential Center in Honolulu, and state government, business and community leaders are lending their support.
They gathered in the nation’s capitol on inauguration weekend to attend the Hawaiʻi Presidential Center Inaugural Gala and start the effort to raise money for the project.
The crowd of about 300 consisted mostly of Hawaiʻi residents, former island residents and people with Hawaiʻi ties. They included Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation; AOL Founder Steve Case; educator, author and President Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng; county mayors and UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, who is among those leading the effort to secure the Obama Presidential Center in Honolulu.
“Some thought this was an impossible dream. I’m here to tell you that we can do this and we’ve been encouraged by the President. We are committed to doing this with all of you, because there is no way we could do it without you,” Greenwood told an energized crowd.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to build a center that will advance collaborative solutions to global problems and cultivate a new generation of community leaders. The center will carry forward the President’s work,” Greenwood said.
UH leads Hawaiʻi bid for presidential center
“The idea was hatched by a bunch of UH professors sitting around a kitchen table,” said Connie Lau, president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Electric Industries, a major sponsor of the gala.
“We want to thank the university for leading our state’s efforts in bidding for the Hawaiʻi Presidential Center. But UH cannot do it alone. All of us have to pitch in and do our part. This will bring to Hawaiʻi significant economic, educational and environmental benefits. It will teach and inspire children and our visitors throughout Hawaiʻi,” Lau said.
Soetoro-Ng, who is also a UH faculty member, arrived at the fundraiser gala after attending a string of other inaugural festivities.
“I think Hawaiʻi has put together a wonderful proposal, it’s insightful, thoughtful and I know that regardless of the outcome, that my brother will want to take a hold of all of the people and the resources and the ideas that Hawaiʻi brings. I am looking forward to having my home be part of the rich conversation about the future,” Soetoro-Ng said.
Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation pledges support
Hawaiʻi will have to compete with Chicago, President Obama’s other hometown, for a piece of the presidential center.
U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa suggested the dueling states share the center.
“He calls both places home. I know the president will want to have part of his legacy with us,” Hanabusa said.
“Hawaiʻi has unique assets that it brings to this conversation. The whole community in Hawaiʻi is supportive of this effort and we’re in the conversation on the national level. So we have to stay unified and make our best case at the appropriate time,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz.
“President Obama and his advisors should strongly consider building a piece of his presidential legacy in Hawaiʻi. I know Hawaiʻi is a special place to him, and Hawaiʻi residents are proud to call him one of their own. I will work closely with other members of the Hawaiʻi delegation in moving the Hawaiʻi presidential center initiative forward,” said U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono.
Read more about the gala and view a slideshow of photos from the event on Greenwood’s blog, UH Matters.