Obama fans will gather to hear their candidate
It's not quite a class reunion, but graduates from Punahou School's class of 1979 plan to gather this weekend to rally support for former classmate and presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Obama supporters have offered their homes today for barbecue lunches, book discussions and potlucks as the Hawaii native's national campaign streams a live appearance online to promote his community grass-roots effort.
The events are part of 5,000 "community kickoff" meetings planned nationwide as supporters post their events on Obama's Web site for public viewing, his campaign staff said.
Hosts in the islands include a Honolulu book club that just read one of his best-selling books, a computer gaming center in Aiea and families on Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai.
Obama, Democratic candidate for president in 2008, plans to attend a "Hope. Action. Change." event in Onawa, Iowa, which will be shown live on the Internet. Audio will also be available through a conference call.
"Barack Obama believes this campaign is about everyday Americans and the discussions that take place in living rooms, coffee shops and community centers," said Bill Burton, national press secretary for the Obama campaign, in a campaign release. "This Saturday thousands of people will come together to take organizing into their own hands and take the next step in changing this country."
The Democratic senator from Illinois was born in Honolulu 45 years ago and lived in one the country's most diverse metropolitan areas for the better part of 18 years. He spent four childhood years in Indonesia.
Obama still visits Hawaii in the winter to relax, play basketball and golf with old friends and to spend time with his grandmother and sister, who both live in Honolulu.
Many of Obama's Hawaii supporters have said that growing up in Hawaii -- with its melting pot of mostly Asian, Polynesian and European cultures and religions -- gave Obama the diverse background needed to pull the country together.
Classmates from private Punahou School, which Obama attended from the fifth grade to high school graduation, were to gather at a private residence.
PC Gamerz in Pearl Kai Shopping Center, where online gamers rent computers by the hour, will open its store early so supporters can eat breakfast together and use its equipment to see Obama speak.
"We wanted to use our resources for good and not evil," owner Jeri Endo said.
David Fry, a 32-year-old Web designer, has offered his home in Kahala for people to watch the webcast, view a campaign video and discuss ways to support Obama while having a potluck-style barbecue.
"It seems like there is so much energy, so much excitement for him," Fry said. "People are just coming out of the woodwork."