A Holiday Visit From President Obama

Kailua braces for safety zones, protesters and traffic stops.
The presidential family arrived in Honolulu on Dec. 19, 2014 for a holiday vacation.
Photo: David Croxford


When President Barack Obama comes to town for the holidays for some time off, O‘ahu gets worldwide attention. 


In my hometown of Kailua, we feel the pride. Hey, the leader of the free world picks our town to chill with his family! We also feel the inevitable inconveniences of having a motorcade traveling the same two-lane roads that we do.


The security team blocks off beach access near the guest houses where they stay. And more security patrols the nearby canal from what looks like the coolest government-issued Zodiac-like vessel around, which doesn’t thrill the nearby kayakers, who can’t paddle the same waters during the visit.


We’ve become resigned to occasional random pauses in traffic as the presidential entourage rolls by with the first family. That’s because Honolulu police will hold traffic until the official vehicles whisk by, whether the president is off for a round of golf at Mid Pac Country Club, heading to a barbeque on the North Shore or just going hiking with the girls. 


And then there are the sign-holding protesters who stand as close as they can to the street where the first family stays. Usually, the mix of issues (Hawaiian rights, nuclear arms, global strife) that draws them out can be pretty interesting, which is lucky if you’re in the traffic line stopped for the motorcade.


Sometimes, a close brush with our head of state can be a little otherworldly. One year, I was driving away from a building next door to the former Lucyʻs restaurant. I found out that I was so close to the Obamas dinner spot that the Secret Service very politely asked me to step out of my well-worn minivan to allow the dogs to sniff it before I could get back in and pass by the restaurant.


But, for the most part, Kailua’s famous winter visitors offer a friendly reminder that for all their vaunted role in life and on the world stage, it’s kind of fun to know that they’re doing roughly the same thing that our family is: spending time with the kids, hiking, grabbing dinner with friends, hitting the beach, the zoo, the trail to the pillboxes.


And, of course, there’s the chance that any of us will be at Island Snow when the president and his daughters show up for one of their must-do holiday stops.


Who isnʻt up for a holiday shave-ice run? 


Since theyʻll be here 16 days this year, maybe our kids will end up in the same line. In that case, we can flash a shaka,  and say welcome back. 


More Photos

Photos by David Croxford and Diane Lee