Barack Obama at podium
Barack Obama speaks at the East-West Center in January 2019.

The Obama Foundation has announced that the University of Hawaiʻi will collect oral histories of President Barack Obama’s early contacts in Hawaiʻi, where he was born, spent most of his childhood and graduated from high school.

The foundation said New York’s Columbia Center for Oral History at Columbia University will conduct the official oral history of the Obama presidency, and that UH will partner with the University of Chicago to collect oral histories that document the pre-presidential lives of Barack and Michelle Obama.

“Michelle Obama famously observed, ‘You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawaiʻi,’” said UH President David Lassner. “UH and our extraordinary Center for Oral History are looking forward to exploring those early days with those who were part of President Obama’s story.”

Added David Simas, chief executive officer of the Obama Foundation, “We are grateful to the universities of Hawaiʻi and Chicago for participating and ensuring that the important work that preceded President and Mrs. Obama’s time in the White House is integrated into this project.”

Beginning in summer 2019 and over the next five years, the Obama Presidency Oral History Project will conduct interviews with roughly 400 people, including senior leaders and policy makers within the administration, as well as elected officials, campaign staff, journalists and other key figures.

The oral histories are expected to be publicly available online and on-site at Columbia no later than 2026, offering a wealth of information to scholars and interested citizens.

Based on a Columbia University news release.

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