Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"President-elect visits Punahou, tours zoo" (with video)

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, with video (02:18) from KITV:
President-elect Barack Obama packed his day with activities yesterday as his vacation in Hawaii nears its end.

Obama played basketball at his alma mater, went to the Honolulu Zoo with his daughters and also visited the apartment of his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.

He went to his alma mater Punahou to play basketball, took his daughters to the Hononlulu Zoo and visited his late grandmother's Makiki apartment.
His day began yesterday with a small group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who showed up outside the $9 million Kailua vacation rental where Obama and his family are staying.

About a dozen people representing various groups peacefully set up at the security checkpoint fronting the Kailuana Place residence.

Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel who protested with peace activist Cindy Sheehan outside of President Bush's Texas ranch, was among the demonstrators.

She wore a T-shirt that read: "We will not be silent" and carried a sign that read: "Change U.S. foreign policy. Yes we can."

Other signs read "War is Terror," "Free Palestine" and "No U.S. support for Israel."

Wright, 62, of Honolulu, said the demonstrators represented various groups, including her organization, Veterans for Peace.

The groups issued a news release that stated in part: "We call on President-elect Obama to place the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the top of his list of priorities of his new administration."

As his motorcade left the Kailua compound, Obama sat in the rear on the passenger side of his black sport utility vehicle and was not visible to the protesters, who were on the left side of the vehicle. Obama sipped from a bottle of water and looked straight ahead as the vehicle passed.

The motorcade then made the drive over the Pali Highway to Punahou School, where it was met by about 200 students, parents and administrators at the private school, which is on its winter break.

Punahou spokeswoman Laurel Bowers Husain said the students were members of various sports teams who had finished practice and began milling about amid the tight security. Many waved at the 1979 Punahou graduate as his motorcade made its way onto the campus.

Aides said Obama was accompanied by friends Martin Nesbitt, Eric Whitaker, Greg Orme and another high school friend, Mike Ramos.

Obama spent about an hour in the gym, emerging in a fresh white T-shirt, Bermuda shorts and sandals. He then made his way over to the throng of people, exchanging pleasantries, posing for photographs and signing a few autographs before leaving.

The entourage then made its way to the Honolulu Zoo, where he and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, were joined by the children of his other friends. No wives were spotted entering the zoo with the group of about 15 adults and children.

Obama visited the new tiger cub exhibit and was greeted by Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Obama capped off his day with a visit to the Punahou-area apartment where he grew up, and where Dunham, his grandmother, lived until her death Nov. 2. The apartment had been a frequent stop for Obama on previous trips.

An aide said she did not immediately know why Obama was visiting the residence. He entered the building out of public view and did not stop to greet the dozen or so people who had gathered on the sidewalk outside the building after word of his arrival got out.
He returned to his vacation residence shortly before 6 p.m.

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