FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $25!

PRESS RELEASE: New Book Delves into Obama’s Years in Hawai‘i

The Dream Begins

Born and raised in the most multicultural state in the union, United States presidential candidate Barack Obama bears the indelible stamp of his native Hawai‘i. Here is a coming-of-age story set in Hawai‘i’s storied “melting pot”—a revealing look at what makes Obama tick.

Contact: Dawn Sakamoto, (808) 534-7170 or dawn (at)

The Dream Begins: How Hawai‘i Shaped Barack Obama
New Book Delves into Obama’s Years in Hawai‘i

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i — September 17, 2008 — Barack Obama is every bit the polished, street-ready pol from Chicago but a new book describes him as an insecure, questioning youth called Barry Obama who grew up in Hawai‘i, a state of diverse cultures, while searching for an identity to call his own.

If elected in November, Obama would make history as the first Hawai‘i-born person to become President of the United States.

Born and raised in the most multicultural state in the union, Obama bears the indelible stamp of his native Hawai‘i. A new book from Watermark Publishing, The Dream Begins: How Hawai‘i Shaped Barack Obama, is a coming-of-age story set in Hawai‘i’s storied “melting pot”—a revealing look at the island state that is surely a core part of what makes Obama tick.

Written by Honolulu journalists Stu Glauberman and Jerry Burris, this 152-page book examines Obama’s early years in Hawai‘i. The self-described “skinny kid with the funny name” flourished in the Islands, where local values foster tolerance, compromise and mutual respect—and where diversity defines people rather than divides them. The social mores of the Aloha State and the experience of growing up in an island culture have had a deep and lasting influence on the candidate. Obama himself has noted, “What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawai‘i.”

However, throughout his remarkable run for the White House, Sen. Obama has played down the fact that he was born and bred in Hawai‘i. In stump speeches and campaign ads, Obama has stressed his grandparents’ bedrock Kansas values and his Chicago political experience over the Aloha Spirit of his own boyhood home.

It’s not hard to understand why: Political pundits seem to think Hawai‘i isn’t “serious” enough or “domestic” enough to be the home state of a man who would be president. During his much-scrutinized week off in his home state, Obama endured steady needling from Republicans characterizing his vacation in Hawai‘i as both elitist and frivolous. National news media joined in, sniffing that it was clearly counterproductive for Obama to enjoy some downtime with his family in tiny, solidly Democratic Hawai‘i, when he could be out on the campaign trail upping his lead in daily tracking polls in states that “really count.”

When NPR commentator Cokie Roberts said that Obama’s trip had “the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place,” you could almost hear the harrumphing up and down the Hawaiian archipelago. Island politicians rushed to defend their state as, well, a U.S. state almost like any other.

While the candidate has chosen not to make much of his Island roots during the campaign, Hawai‘i hears echoes of itself almost every time Obama speaks. And those echoes are about a set of values that are far more substantive, but admittedly far more difficult to grasp, than the superficial vision of the 50th State as a tropical paradise. In their book, The Dream Begins, Glauberman and Burris offer concise lessons in Hawai‘i history to help the reader understand its racial and social climate, and how such an environment influenced a young man like Obama.

The values of Hawai‘i’s Polynesian host culture include the importance of compassion, cooperation, tolerance and respect for the opinions and traditions of others. They imply a certain modesty that can seem out of place in the crushing competition of presidential politics.

Obama was explicitly and deliberately taught those values in class and in chapel during his years at the private Punahou School. But the lessons of Hawai‘i are more deeply absorbed simply by growing up in this very unusual state where no ethnic group is a majority.

The Island philosophy simplistically characterized as the Aloha Spirit has its roots in the multi-ethnic history of Hawai‘i, where the plantations’ various immigrant groups understood they had to work together to earn the role they sought in the larger society. The Aloha Spirit is also rooted in the very geographic isolation of the Islands. Those who live on a small island quickly come to realize that cooperation and a live-and-let-live attitude are critical for survival.

Obama himself has said that Hawai‘i taught him to build bridges between people. Here he saw the ideal of how people of different backgrounds can live together in a climate of mutual respect. He has said that Hawai‘i is part of his core being; it is what’s best about his message. Hawai‘i is a model for the kind of America he hopes his campaign will bring about: a place where people rise above the barriers that divide them.

As his wife, Michelle Obama, has said, “You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawai‘i.” The Dream Begins is the key to gaining that understanding the man who is shattering history as a candidate for President of the United States.

During his career as a journalist with The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Stu Glauberman covered many beats including education, politics, business and Hawaiian affairs. He has traveled widely and also reported from Asia. Jerry Burris is Hawai‘i’s foremost political analyst, having reported and commented on politics for readers of The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu television viewers for more than 30 years.

The Dream Begins: How Hawai‘i Shaped Barack Obama (ISBN 978-0-9815086-8-9) will be available in September priced at $17.95 at bookstores and other retail outlets, from online booksellers, or direct from the publisher at Contact Watermark Publishing, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 806, Honolulu, HI 96813; telephone (808) 587-7766; toll-free (866) 900-BOOK; fax (808) 521-3461; e-mail

# # #