Sandy Beach better for tribute to Obama


POSTED: Monday, December 14, 2009

It's too easy to write off a resolution to rename a beach park after President Barack Obama as political posturing on the part of Honolulu's mayor. The truth is that it wouldn't hurt Obama's hometown to show a little pride for a pioneering figure destined to be remembered by history no matter how well—or badly—his presidency unfolds.

As the Honolulu-born and Punahou School-educated politician falters in public opinion polls, with the U.S. economy still struggling, the war in Afghanistan escalating and Congress engaged in a contentious debate over health care reform, fewer and fewer people are lining up to sing Obama's praises.

So to have Mufi Hannemann put forth the idea when Obama is anything but riding high makes the topic all the more intriguing, even if the mayor didn't choose the best site and the populace doesn't quite seem in the mood to bestow the honor.

Hannemann wants the City Council to change the name of Aina Moana Beach Park, popularly known as Magic Island, to President Barack Obama Beach Park at Magic Island. But Obama's ties to that particular venue—a picnic there with his family in August 2008—are too slim to make it a historically significant choice, and people will just keep calling it Magic Island anyway.

Instead, the city could consider renaming some or all of Sandy Beach Park to honor the president. Obama grew up bodysurfing the dangerous South Shore break, returns there every time he visits Oahu and scattered his mother's ashes from the rocky cliffs nearby. He wrote about his deep and lasting ties to the area in his memoir, and kept a picture of the distinctive shoreline in his U.S. Senate office.

Of course, people will keep calling it Sandy's, but that's really beside the point.

The point is that Obama, no matter whether one supports him politically or not, does deserve some recognition.

Critics who claim he hasn't “;done enough”; to warrant a permanent monument (even one as minor as the entrance sign to a public park) so early in his presidency overlook the obvious: Obama was democratically elected the first black president of a country riven by racial injustice for much of its history, and hails from a city and state where racial diversity and harmony serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

Furthermore, his compelling personal story emphasizes rigorous education as the route to success. And that's an especially important message for all those teenagers spending their Furlough Fridays catching waves at Sandy Beach.