CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Class of 1979 Punahou Schools alumni Robyn Tanaka, Lenny Andrew, Kelli Furushima and Cathie Richardson looked at old school pictures at Bernice Bower's Lanikai home yesterday. Bowers hosted a mini 1979 Punahou Schools reunion for her classmates to catch up and informally view a DVD of their peer, presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Hawaii gatherings nurture support for Obama
Punahou School classmates of presidential hopeful Barack Obama gathered yesterday at Bernice Bower's Lanikai home at a "community kickoff meeting" in support of the candidate.
Bowers, a 1979 Punahou graduate, held the party for the school's class of 1979 after many of her former classmates had been interviewed by mainland and international media outlets.
"We wanted to just kind of marvel at it and reflect on it," she said.
Bower's house party was one of 5,000 events nationwide yesterday in a grassroots campaign to support Obama, who was born in Honolulu and attended Punahou School from the fifth grade through high school graduation.
Nine kickoff events were scheduled in Hawaii, including at a book club that read one of his books, a computer gaming store in Aiea and at private homes.
The Democratic senator from Illinois was at what was billed as a "Hope. Action. Change" event in Onawa, Iowa, which was shown live on the Internet.
At the PC Gamerz in Pearl Kai Shopping Center, about 12 people gathering for a kickoff event had breakfast and watched the Webcast.
A technical glitch eliminated the video, but attendees listened to the audio portion of the feed, said Jeff Furumura, owner of PC Gamerz.
"It was good to get all like-minded folks together," he said. "We had not really known each other until this morning."
Furumura said he had decided to hold the house party at the store because Obama's campaign excited him enough to "take a baby step towards participating actively on his behalf."
"He gives us a lot of hope," he said. "I just hope it mushrooms."
David Fry, who organized a barbecue kickoff event in Kahala, said 35 to 40 people showed up.
"It was bigger than we expected," said Fry, a member of Hawaii for Obama, a grassroots campaign supporting his run for president.
Attendees shared stories of how they came to support Obama, and watched the Webcast.
Bowers was quick to point out her party was more of a gathering for old friends than a political rally.
"So many of us had gotten contacted (by the media). That actually sparked the social networking," she said.
About 15 people showed up for the party, ate together and watched Obama's campaign DVD.
"Almost all of us started to reflect on everything, the good and bad," Bowers said. In his book, Obama recounted the internal struggles he had as a racial minority at Punahou School.
Several alumni at the party said they supported Obama.
Kelli Furushima, one of his high school friends, served as chairwoman for the Class of 1979's 10-year and 25-year class reunions. Obama has never attended a class reunion, she said. But she was proud and happy for him.
"That's kind of nice," she said. "It will be talked about at the reunion, no matter what happens, win or lose."