U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., greeted a crowd yesterday before announcing his candidacy for president in Springfield, Ill. Obama, 45, is the youngest candidate in the Democrats' 2008 primary field dominated by the front-runner, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and filled with more experienced lawmakers. CLICK FOR LARGE
Obama formalizes bid for president
Questions about experience in national politics are likely as the Punahou graduate and isle native opens his campaign
» What some are saying about Barack Obama's days at Punahou School
AFTER U.S. Sen. Barack Obama officially tossed his hat into the presidential race, one thing's for certain: The Hawaii Draft Obama Steering Committee will need a new name.
That's on the way, said committee member and former state Rep. Brian Schatz, as well as fundraising and campaign activities still in planning stages to help elect the man who could be the first U.S. president born in Hawaii.
"We think we can be a source of some financial support from Hawaii," Schatz said. "I think he's still building his name recognition, and that's gonna be one of his challenges in the next several months."
'Let us transform this nation'
BARACK OBAMA DECLARES HIS CANDIDACY FOR PRESIDENT.
One possible source of support for Obama is his Punahou School classmates and teachers, who said they believe he has the right stuff to lead the nation.
"He was well-liked, popular and a very active person," said Obama's high school homeroom teacher Eric Kusunoki. "I knew he'd do well, but president? Whew."
Alan Lum, who played with Obama when they were high school state basketball champions in 1979, said Obama was always a team player.
"For teachers everywhere, he is a reminder of the unknown promise in each child -- the realization that the students you have in front of you each day may be destined for leadership in every walk of life," said Punahou President James K. Scott. "For Hawaii, he symbolizes the strength of our multicultural, multiethnic heritage."
Schatz said part of Obama's appeal will be his age and bipartisan message.
"He's really the first post-boomer candidate," Schatz said. "I think people are ready to move beyond the Bushes and the Clintons fighting. Because he didn't come up during that period, he sees some of these issues through a different lens."
Schatz said while Obama might come to Hawaii during the campaign trail, the committee isn't going to force the issue.
"We think it's critical that he focus in the early primary states, like Iowa or New Hampshire," Schatz said. "We don't want to make demands inconsistent with the overall campaign strategy."
What some are saying about Barack Obama's days at Punahou School
"Most faculty believe they're teaching the future leaders. ... The fact that one of their former students could grow up to be a significant and prominent candidate for president -- that really is special." -- Punahou President James Scott
"When you listen to him, even if you don't agree with everything, there's a thoughtful, reasoned, centrist, articulate point of view." -- James Scott
"It felt like I was in the presence of a rock star." -- James Scott, on the adoration students showed Obama during his visit to the school in 2004
"You're surrounded by overachievers and you expect people to be very successful, but I don't think anybody imagines you to run for president or be pope or anything like that." -- Mitchell Kam, Obama classmate, Punahou Class of 1979
"Up to this point, he hasn't become an animal of the political machine to as severe an extent as some other people have. He seems to have been able to maintain his frankness and his honesty." -- Mitchell Kam
"He never ran for any kind of student government position. He wasn't an outstanding scholar or anything, but he was a thinker and he was a writer from early on. Other than that you just would never even dream that he would exceed where he has." -- Kelli Furushima, Obama classmate, Punahou Class of 1979
"That's pretty special, when you dedicate yourself that much to getting good at something. I didn't know it would translate into politics, but certainly I knew he was going to be successful at whatever he did just because of his drive, determination and his work ethic." -- Former Punahou basketball coach Chris McLachlin, on Obama's practice habits
"I think in fifth grade homeroom, Miss Hefty told us anybody in the class could be president. You know how they do that? I want to ask him (Obama) if he remembers that." -- Dean Ando, Obama classmate, Punahou Class of 1979
"He either had a natural talent for that or he had spent a lot of time thinking about how to frame issues because he was very poised and he was very clear. He was very sophisticated, even then, in the way he kind of dissected the issues and framed his arguments." -- Jeff Cox, Obama classmate, Punahou Class of 1979, on losing a debate in a high school speech class